PHOENIX — Children and teens with Down syndrome are learning and developing their dance skills through a unique program.
Alexandra Papazian, Ballet Arizona’s Education & Community Engagement Manager, says the organization saw a need in the community that could be filled with dance.
“We are an art form that was born in French Italian courts. It wasn’t really brought to people until much later in its history. Even still, there are barriers that exist to participating in dance classes," Papazian said.
To break those barriers, Ballet Arizona launched the Adaptive Dance for Down syndrome Program headed by Kay Price.
Therese Derivan, whose daughter Samantha has participated for years, was at first skeptical.
“Everybody wants to work on flexibility in these dance classes. People with Down syndrome tend to have really loose joints and low muscle tone so they don't protect their joints,” said Derivan.
But, after sitting down with Miss Kay, she says her worries were replaced with trust.
“Miss Kay knew all about it. She knew all about it. She told me that they had already worked with a physical therapist to find a safe way to work with this special population,” Derivan added.
Since joining, she says her daughter has thrived. Sam has auditioned and performed in Swan Lake and The Nutcracker.
Derivan says the biggest gain for Sam, is confidence, saying Sam now dances at her school and got her first job as a volunteer dance helper.
“We feel so comfortable and are just grateful that Ballet Arizona saw the need and then had a creative way of filling it,” says Derivan.
Ballet Arizona is looking at developing programs for adults so dancers can continue beyond their teens.
To learn more, or to check out a class, click here.