Dance Studio Gives Girls With Special Needs A Chance To Shine - FOX 13 News

Dance Studio Gives Girls With Special Needs A Chance To Shine

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PHILADELPHIA -

Little girls love to dance. And for most moms, finding a ballet or dance class where their child can shine is easy. That is unless your child has special needs.

What little girl doesn't dream of being a ballerina?

All around town, young ladies are hard at work, making it a reality. They find their footing, dance and twirl until their heart's content.

"She loves dancing. Every where she goes, she dances and sings. Music is the way to her heart," says Dana Keating.

However, because Dana Keating's daughter Charlotte suffers from a rare form of epilepsy, it wasn't easy trying to find a dance class that would embrace her 10-year old.

"I think it is just a big social opportunity. They are so limited in a lot of ways. This is just such an outlet where she can socially be with her friends and be very proud of herself," says Dana Keating.

Dana says she hit the jackpot when she had Charlotte's birthday party at Philadelphia Studio Ballet in Haverford a year and a half ago. That's when the owner decided to offer a weekly enrichment class.

"I've been in this business for a very very long time and I just always thought children with special needs should have the same opportunities or experience, the same joys all these little girls have," says Suzanne Slenn of the Philadelphia Ballet Studio.

Theresa Smith and her 12 year old daughter Sophie also jumped at the chance to dance.

"So often, our kids don't have a place to go and this gives them a place they can go and feel at home and feel welcome," says Smith.

And Sophia is definitely at home here. FOX 29's Dawn Timmeney asked her how she felt when she was dancing.

"Joyful and graceful," says Sophia Villa. "Happy."

Dance therapist Maggie Ludwig-Albert says that her goal is help her kids feel the happiness from dancing. And she says she approaches this class with these little ballerinas like any other ballet class. She just slows the pace down a bit and keeps it fun.

"They really blew me away, especially at first. I wasn't really sure how this class was gonna go when I first started, but they just amazed me every single week that I taught them," says Ludwig-Albert.

Not only are the girls able to remember the dance steps, Maggie also notices that they have gained more confidence and self-esteem. And they've also become great friends with each other.

"They love it. They clearly love it. You can see it in their faces and I just think that's the coolest thing," says Maggie.

What's also super cool is that the girls get to perform in recitals with all the other students.

"During the show we were all backstage crying and the audience was crying. It was a great great time," says Suzanne.

"To be able to perform on stage is just huge for them as well. They never get opportunities like that and she loves performing," says Dana.

"I danced on the stage," remarks Charlotte. "Yeah!"

"It makes me happy for her. She gets to do normal things that children get to do," says Dana.

The girls in the enrichment class are 10 to 13 years old. They have Down Syndrome, autism or epilepsy. The dance studio says it is committed to accommodating younger children and working with any family who's been struggling to find a place for their special needs child to experience the joy of dance.

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