Friday, May 15, 2009

"Hope, Love, and Fancy Footwork"

From (Birmingham, Michigan):

Dancers move for a good cause
Fred Astaire Dance Studio and Variety FAR have a dance partnership built on hope, love and fancy footwork.

This moves into the spotlight May 17 when nine of the Variety FAR dancers — including those with Down syndrome, Williams syndrome and autism — take to the Music Hall Center stage to show off their moves in their annual best-of-the-best showcase.

The dancers, ages 8 to 21, are performing a complicated five-dance number to music from Madagascar 2 with steps from the merengue, swing, foxtrot and hip hop.

Variety FAR Conservatory of Therapeutic and Performing Arts is a private, nonprofit organization in Birmingham that provides creative arts therapy and recreation services for children and adults with mental, physical and/or emotional impairments. The Bloomfield Township-based Fred Astaire Dance Studio is the only Fred Astaire franchise in Michigan.

Variety FAR and Fred Astaire Dance Studio worked together for several years but, at first, the whole concept of teaching children with disabilities complicated ballroom and Latin dances was challenging to embrace, said Variety FAR executive director Arlene Kass.

“At first we were skeptical,” Kass said. “We teach dance therapy and we know how hard it is for some of the children to learn the coordination, plus no one at Fred Astaire had ever worked with special needs kids.”
But when the children came to Fred Astaire, what happened next was “magic,” Kass said.

“Lada (Reschikova, the Fred Astaire Dance Studio co-owner) did amazing things with them, I think because she expects amazing things from them,” Kass said. “They learn coordination and self-esteem. This carries over into other aspects of their life.”

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