DANCE IS FOR EVERYONE
MixMo Spreads the Joy of Dance
by Beth Blachman
This fall, on Saturday mornings at eight, the studios of Todd Rosenlieb Dance will be full of young dancers who will run, jump, and leap to a steady drumbeat. The dancers will have red tags on their right ballet slippers and blue tags on their left to help them remember which foot is which. A physical therapist from CHKD will be present as well as a dance teacher because the students have Down Syndrome and are part of the MixMo, or Mixed Abilities in Motion, program at TRDance. MixMo is a partnership among TRDance, CHKD, and Down Syndrome Association of Hampton Roads.
The MixMo program got its start when Melissa Zaletski, whose grandson Gus has Down Syndrome, saw a story in People magazine about a similar program at Boston Ballet. She brought the idea to CHKD, DSAHR, and Todd Rosenlieb at TRDance, and the rest is history. Now in its ninth year as a part of TRDance, the MixMo program includes a variety of offerings for students with Down Syndrome and classes for students on the autism spectrum. The adaptive dance students steal the show at the TRD academy showcases, and upcoming performances include an October showing at “Step Up for Down Syndrome” at Mount Trashmore.
Billie Miller, whose daughter Mary has been a part of the adaptive dance program almost since the beginning, remembers the moment in 2008 when she came to the studio and told Todd Rosenlieb that it was a monumental day. Mary had just said her first three-word sentence. It was “dance with Todd.”
“Those three beautiful words were the start of something that is still growing and developing through the dedication of ADC,” says Miller. “I don’t think that he realized what an impact that he and his staff have on our children.”
Mary has participated in the adaptive dance programs for years, and this summer she attended a week-long MixMo camp where she focused on ballet. Over the years, she has performed around the Hampton Roads area at galas, museums, and performances. Miller says Mary loves the applause.
“MixMo has built Mary’s confidence in other aspects of her life,” Miller muses. “She is much more outgoing. She is willing to try new things and even get out of her comfort zone. The classes are so much more than dance. They learn turn-taking, self-control, patience, and sharing.”
“Mixed Abilities in Motion (MixMo) not only changes the lives and abilities of our amazing dancers, but also reveals to their families the power of dance education, an arts community that cares, and an undeniable sense of joy,” says Rosenlieb.
Mary’s favorite part of adaptive dance class is the freestyle portion at the end, where all of the dancers get a turn to dance with Rosenlieb to the tune of “Pink Martini.”
“Mary seems to always glow, smile, and look right at Todd when it is finally her turn to dance one-on-one with him,” says Miller. “After all the dancers get their turn, then it turns into a dance party.”
TRDance is currently accepting students of all ages on the autism spectrum and with Down Syndrome. The fall session begins September 9. Visit trdance.org for more info, or call 757-626-3262.