Kim Smith has been dancing since she was two years old, which is why she hoped her daughter Reagan would have the same chance to enjoy it. Unfortunately there were no classes that could accommodate kids with special needs like Reagan—who has autism—in Charlotte, North Carolina. Frustrated, Smith set out to find a class that could.
Smith posted that she was looking for a space to teach kids with special needs to dance on Facebook, and received a response from longtime dance teacher Donna Mitzel, who offered up her space for the cause, reports Today. And so “A Chance to Dance” was born.
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“I just want to give them the opportunity, to let them shine,” Smith tells Today. “I would like for people to see their faces, watch their videos, see them dance, and see the possibilities, not the disability.”
Years later, the class now has 34 students and 10 volunteer teachers. The students have a variety of conditions, including autism, Down syndrome, blindness, achondroplasia (a form of dwarfism), lower leg amputations, cerebral palsy, and epilepsy. Smith says they never turn a would-be dancer away—they simply modify their style to meet each child’s needs.
Angie Sinyard’s six-year-old daughter, Sophia Grace, has tuberous sclerosis, a genetic disorder that causes tumors in the brain, eyes, heart, kidneys, skin and lungs. She also suffers from epilepsy, autism, and ADHD. But none of that keeps her from dance class.
“It is the one thing she has to look forward to every week. She would wear her tutus and ballet stuff 24/7 if we would let her,” Sinyard tells Today.
She says that Sophia is with people who accept her for who she is, and it has done wonders for her confidence.
“There are not enough words to express how happy we are to see her dance. The first time we watched her dance I think my husband and I cried for a full 30 minutes. She literally was shining,” Sinyard adds.
This spring, A Chance to Dance’s competition squad is going against non-disabled dancers, but Sinyard isn’t worried.
"Watch out! We are going to be champions," she says. "Who I am kidding? We already are."