Why I support "A Chance to Dance" by Amy Metrena, MSPT Physical Therapist
Imagine you are 19. Unable to move on your own. Unable to sit without holding on. Having the chance to dance. -showcase your strengths - have fun - connect with your peers. Imagine the possibilities.
As a pediatric school based physical therapist, when I first heard about National Dance Week “A Chance to Dance” and the launch of Wingman for Dance, my heart soared. Over the years, I have had many of my clients tell me they wished to take a dance class like their siblings and friends, but “couldn’t” for one reason or another: lack of appropriate classes, lack of understanding of their abilities from their parents, lack of financial resources, and many other reasons. I am not a dancer, my girls are. When I told them about the opportunity to participate in the Newtown Dance Mob to celebrate National Dance Week and the launch of Wingman for Dance, they eagerly jumped at the chance to participate with their studio. As we listened to the inspirational speakers at the start of the event, excitement could be felt in the stadium. I watched as not only my girls, but all of the dancers, heard the message that everyone wants to be included, no matter their ability. The dancers took this message, and filled with energy and excitement, danced their hearts out. My family left the stadium emotional, open to possibilities, and changed for the better.
With a heart filled with hope, I returned to work the Monday following this inspiring event, sharing with my students about my experience over the weekend. One of my students is a 19 year old young lady with Spina Bifida. She has significant scoliosis and no ability to move her legs. While she is able to sit if she uses her hands for support, a power wheelchair is her only means of mobility. Socially, she has told me she feels isolated from her peers. She spent most of her life in another country, and did not attend school until she moved to the United States 3 years ago. Physically she feels different from her peers, and in addition, English is not her first language. She is very shy, and typically social interactions with her peers are facilitated by adults.
As I showed her pictures from the Newtown Dance Mob, her face lit up. I asked if she wanted to dance to the same music hundreds of other dancers were dancing to that same week.. “But I can’t dance.” I assured her that yes, she indeed could. Together, we sat on the mat with the music on repeat. I helped with her balance as she moved her arms to adapted choreography to the best of her ability. Over and over, she danced, her face filled with joy. At the end of our session she said in broken English “Something is wrong with me! My face, it is very hot!”. For the first time in her life, she was able to move enough on her own to break a sweat and exert herself. Despite years of therapy, she had never reached this milestone. She returned to class, initiating conversation with her classmates to tell them excitedly that she had been dancing! Not only did she experience benefits physically, but socially and emotionally as well.
After hearing her excitedly talk about dancing during PT, my next group of students asked as we left the room , “Can we dance too?” Why yes, yes you can
Amy Metreana, MSPT