It is really hard to see the bright side of things when we are going through a difficult time but some people have this amazing ability to see what is beyond the surface. They can dive deeper into the ocean of uncertainty and they are able to discover hidden treasures that can change not only their own lives but other people’s lives for better.

Although Jade and Mallory had a lot of questions on how to better support our Dance Ability community during the COVID-19 outbreak, they were determined to remain true to the DAM philosophy which states that we are all unique, we all deserve equal opportunities and we all have the ability to dance. For ten years, the Ryan sisters have been seeing dancers beyond their disability. They have given them a chance to experience the joy of dance by getting to know their strengths, creating an inclusive environment and implementing strategies to allow each dancer to develop their full potential and thrive.

It was no different with the pandemic. At the dance studio or at home, The Dance Ability Movement’s commitment to contributing to the positive health and well-being of their dancers was stronger than ever. “Working with our team of instructors, we quickly decided we would offer virtual dance classes – trying to maintain a similar schedule to our weekly dance classes”, says Mallory Ryan, The Dance Ability Movement Director of Quality & Development. “We worked hard to consider how our dancers and family might feel about virtual dance classes, and created resources to support a smooth transition – clarifying that the expectation was simply to try to connect, offering support for families who may have difficulty getting online”.

Young girl having a virtual dance class on her TV screenThe weekly online classes had an 80% turnout of dancers who were able to get connected within the first two weeks and positively surprised not only the DAM’s team but also their dancers’ families. “Serena is really enjoying the online classes”, says her mom, Lisa. “I know she is totally isolated since she is an only child and it is nice for her to see actual faces and hear their voices.  It gives her a sense of normalcy in this difficult time. She loves having the living room to herself and see herself on the TV which we attach from the laptop. Since she hasn’t facetimed or video chatted with anyone, joining in the virtual dance classes makes her very happy!”

Janina’s mom also agrees the online dance classes have truly been important to her daughter considering the Covid circumstances. “Janina’s enjoying it immensely and it’s the one thing she imperatively holds onto and looks forward to every week. She uses her iPad to connect to her classes and although she still feels sad and upset at times about not being able to be there physically, she’s taken to the virtual connection very well and wakes up every Saturday morning thoroughly excited and gleeful to dance. It also allows her to stay connected to her dance friends and practice a new set of social cues. It’s a great practice in her social and overall regulation as it requires her to wait patiently for the session to start and requires turn-taking.”

Besides offering online classes, Jade and Mallory launched the Keep Dancing Challenge to encourage dancers and their families to stay active at home. Each week they select a song and encourage dancers, volunteers and teachers to create a dance sequence and submit a video. Then, all videos submitted are put together to create a collaborative choreography that is posted on their YouTube channel so anyone can dance along at home.

“More than keeping our dancers active, we really hoped this initiative would fill their weeks with a lot of JOY and FUN”, says Jade Ryan, The Dance Ability Movement Director of Inclusion & Operations. “We were thrilled to see dancers, volunteers, teachers and even their family members joining in the challenge, creating their own moves and having a great time”.

Elouise was one of the dancers who has been participating in the #KeepDancingChallenge. Her parents, Rick and Erica were very impressed and proud of her dancing. “She actually did a routine for the whole song. We just flipped the phone around so she could see herself and let her dance away. It was impressive to see the moves she’s picked up just from watching the #KeepDancingChallenge videos. And for her to hold attention for the whole song was also surprising”.

Dancing together through Coronavirus has allowed the DAM community to unveil opportunities that were hidden beyond the surface. “We have found new ways to stay connected and support each other, developed new skills to adapt ourselves to the virtual world and more importantly, have witnessed and experienced how dance can still bring us together as a community even in difficult times”, says Jade.

Stay tuned for details about our Virtual Summer Classes!

*Important Disclaimer: stories are shared with the intention of promoting an inclusive society and increasing knowledge and awareness of our community. Views expressed are not representative of all participants and may not be indicative of your potential experiences.