Over the years, we have covered a number of different dance groups, all of which specialize in their own forms, from tango to ballet. Until I heard about the group Danceability, I was not aware that there was a dance outfit dedicated to fulfilling the demands for special needs dancers.
I reached out to Krystal Testa at Danceability to learn more about the organization. Krystal, who has been an active volunteer with the group for 11 years, told me about a number of ways that Danceability is growing, including moving into a 5000 square foot building (2365 George Urban Boulevard – 2.5 times the current space), a third studio, new teachers, enhanced programming, and the build out of a new waiting room for dancers with sensory issues.
Danceability is an individualized dance, fitness, and movement program serving the special needs community.
Once I realized the extent that Danceability was growing, co-founder Robin Bishop was brought into the conversation. This is what Robin had to say:
Who started the program?
Myself and Christine Dwyer, 12 years ago. We are both Buffalo natives. I am a dancer and a licensed social worker and she is a dancer and a Kenmore special education teacher.
What is your role with the group – how and when did you get started?
I am now the Executive Director. When we first started, we were volunteers for the first 2 years, but the program grew so much that I eventually left my job at the time as an Artist in Residence at Children’s Hospital and became the program’s first and still only fulltime employee. I run the program, but I am also an instructor.
There are other dance studios who both work with those with special needs and there are some mainstream dance studios that offer one or two classes for those with special needs. We separate ourselves from the rest by focusing on not only what happens in the dance studio; fun & therapeutically, but also by focusing on the caregivers’ well-being as well.
How does someone qualify as a dancer?
Technically, anyone can dance at danceability, but we specialize with those within the special needs community. We take children as young as 3 to adults, and no one ever ages out! We have boys, girls, men and women, ambulatory or non-ambulatory.
What are some of the special needs that you encounter?
Autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, seizure disorders, learning disabilities, mental illness, and many more….
Can you tell me more about the new waiting room for dancers with sensory issues?
One of the issues of our current studio is that when the waiting room is crowded, dancers who are waiting for their class can often get overstimulated and upset so they are forced to wait in their car or walk the sidewalk until class time. The new sensory space hopes to create peaceful place for them to wait through a variety of sensory things; swings, rocking chairs, and a few surprises.
Following are the plans for the new space:
What are some of the other features that you have that allow dancers with special needs to participate?
In addition to our dance program, we hold birthday parties at the studios (again for all ages) where dancers can host a birthday dance party with all their favorite music and friends and catered to them in a low key environment different from some popular party places that tend to be crowded and overwhelming to the special needs community. These can book booked by emailing or calling the studio.
Where do you receive funding?
Dancers do pay tuition also comparatively less than other studios. However, about 20% of our dancers receive scholarships from generous community donations (which we are always looking for). We also receive donations and hold fundraising events like our upcoming Halloween party, Comedy Night and annual golf tournament.
Do the dancers perform at other places in WNY?
In the past, we have performed at the Step Up for Down Syndrome walk, Hunter’s Day of Hope and a few other community events.
Are all dancers now accommodated?
Our new studio hopes to bring in the dancers that were on last years waiting list and we still have room to register more dancers. Registration is rolling until November, but register the sooner the better.
What’s next for Danceability?
Our Next Step Campaign and buildout of this new space is the biggest thing Danceability has EVER done! Once it is complete, I think we will take a breather, enjoy it for a while and keep providing a great service to our dancers. We are still looking for corporate sponsors to help us reach our $300,000.00 goal! Give us a call if you can help, or go to crowdrise.com.
Our show is always the Saturday before Mother’s Day. However, we are currently looking for a new handicapped accessible space that holds over 700 people for this year’s show. Please call 716-651-0094 if you can help.