The number of ways Ballroom dancing can transform lives continues to inspire all of us in the dance community. Here's a remarkable example:
Thanks to a partnership between the Spinal Cord Injury Center at the Palo Alto Veterans Administration Health Care System and the American DanceWheels Foundation (ADF) several Bay Area locations are involved in a six-week program of research, classes, instructor training and a Ballroom competition for dancers in wheelchairs.
This program is a first for Northern California. ADF, based in Pennsylvania, developed the only written, structured, and trademarked curriculum of American Style Wheelchair Dancing in the world.
I feel honored that our Mountain View studio was selected for an event that tops off the classes, a wheelchair dance competition on August 24, open to the public from 5:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.
I'd like to share an update from Melinda Kremer, executive director of the ADF:
It is hard for me to believe that our "So You Think You Can't Dance" wheelchair dance program in the Bay Area is going into its third week. We are teaching 48 students to Rumba, Tango, and Salsa with both seated and standing partners...Everyone is supportive and because of their commitment to dancing and each other, everyone is learning and having a great time!
Minna Hong, principal investigator for the wheelchair dance study, and Meela Mehdi, her assistant, are collaborating with us to conduct research at the VA Palo Alto hospital. They have done a great job picking class locations – Palo Alto, Oakland, and San Jose – and coordinating the study.
Everyone involved is excited about learning dances and the upcoming competition. Here's what some students are saying:
"I've been a wheelchair user for 27 years, since I was ten...Wheelchair sports was unheard of, much less, Wheelchair Ballroom and Latin Dancing!"
"I am having the best time learning how to DANCE on WHEELS! THANK you ADF for coming to San Jose...You are an amazing and much needed organization!"
After only two weeks of dance classes, one participant suggested the whole class go out to a club to show off their new dance skills and show others that wheelchair users can participate in social dance activities.
With an emphasis on social dancing but an option for competition as well, VA researchers are equally enthusiastic about this innovative Bay Area project:
We have already been asked numerous times how this program can continue after the research project ends.
After taking a few lessons, people understand this is social dancing they can use anywhere, dancing with anyone who knows American style ballroom/Latin dance.
We hope to make this program more available to people in wheelchairs, perhaps by integrating wheelchair dancing into rehabilitation.
The ultimate research goal is improved quality of life and general functioning of people with spinal cord injuries by making available alternative activity programs that are likely to have therapeutic effects.
The nonprofit ADF is looking for sponsorships to expand its promising classes and training. Please share this blog post, and I urge you to attend the competition, free to the public, on August 24. Lastly, view a great Facebook video.
Hope to see you on the dance floor!
A champion dancer and six-time finalist on "Dancing with the Stars", Cheryl Burke is the founder of a dance studio complex in Mountain View. For more information, see cherylburkedance.com and click on "Contact Us" or see our Facebook pages.
© 2012, Cheryl Burke Dance, LLC. All rights reserved.