Chance to Shine

Volunteers remain lifeblood for nonprofit that provides outlet for special needs individuals

By Daniel Meyer

Samantha Hughes celebrates her mastery of her dance number as volunteer Mariah Haddad directs the crowd’s applause in Samantha’s attention.
Samantha Hughes celebrates her mastery of her dance number as volunteer Mariah Haddad directs the crowd’s applause in Samantha’s attention.

All they want to do is dance. Following the philosophy of not allowing the diagnosis of a disability to deny them from having fun, patrons of a dance studio run by a nonprofit organization are loving life thanks to the efforts of volunteers doing whatever they can to allow members of the special needs community to become superstars.

Danceability Inc. is a nonprofit that regularly hosts individualized dance lessons and movement classes for people with special needs who have family members wanting them to develop social skills with others who have similar obstacles in life.

Now in its 13th year of existence providing unique opportunities for anyone with special needs that has a passion for dance, Danceability Inc. is entering its second year in its approximately 5,000-square-foot facility at 2365 George Urban Blvd. in Cheektowaga. The facility opened in October 2018 to rave reviews from volunteers who assist the dancers and participants themselves.

“It’s an amazing place and we are so thrilled to be here,” said Robin Bishop, the organization’s executive director and a co-founder of the nonprofit. “To hear the excitement and enthusiasm from our dedicated volunteers and of course from all of our wonderful dancers is encouraging.”

The dance studio provides participants a safe indoor environment where they can have fun, spend time with friends, get some needed exercise and be a part of something special for special needs community members from throughout Western New York.

“We provide a place for some truly wonderful people to be themselves and enjoy being around other people and interact and learn and be supported,” she said.

The studio contains three different dance rooms and two waiting rooms, one of which is designated as a sensory waiting room where dancers with specific sensory needs can relax comfortably and avoid loud noises and just prepare for class. The facility also features a community room that can host birthday parties and other special event festivities for participants and others associated with the organization.

Approximately 170 dancers are registered for the current dance season and close to 100 volunteers have offered their time in some capacity to assist the participants and do whatever else needs to be done to keep the studio running. While there is a steady group of dedicated volunteers who consistently lend a hand, anyone interested in getting involved is encouraged to contact the studio.

“What we ask of our volunteers is that they be at least 16 years old, are enthusiastic about helping everyone feel welcome and want to have some fun,” said Bishop. “Volunteers don’t necessarily need to have previous experience as a dancer or a dance instructor. We just want people who can help and enjoy doing this type of volunteer work.”

The bond between dancers and volunteers is strong, as shown here as Aria Lewis and Jillian Szeluga embrace before they hit the stage.
The bond between dancers and volunteers is strong, as shown here as Aria Lewis and Jillian Szeluga embrace before they hit the stage.

Danceability Inc. is collaborating this year with Buffalo State College for what will be its inaugural “Dance-A-Thon.” Set to take place Nov. 10, details are still being firmed up on the exact itinerary as additional event partners are still being sought.

“We are going to have a tremendous debut for this and our plan is to make it an annual celebration so we are hopeful that other dance studios in the area will be interested and available in joining us,” said Bishop. “I ask anyone who wants to get involved to contact us at the studio as we continue to plan something that our dancers are really going to enjoy.”

Efforts to raise money continue as part of the organization’s capital campaign, with an estimated $90,000 still being sought to help finance all of the upgrades that were made to its studio. Anyone interested in making any type of monetary contribution can visit the studio or go online at www.danceability.com.

Bishop said reassuring dancers and their families that no one ever “ages out” and participants are welcome to dance at the studio no matter what their age is one of the drawing points to the organization. It is key to recruiting and keeping boys and girls active at a young age and into their teenage years and beyond.

“This is our 13th year and we have 30 students who have been with us for all 13 years, which I think really says something about what we provide and the volunteers we have and what an important part of being a dancer is in the lives of these special people,” said Bishop. “We accept everyone and we never tell someone they can’t come back because they hit a certain grade in school or a certain age.”

The dance studio can be reached by calling 716-651-0094 for anyone who has questions or wants to learn more about what takes place inside.

“If someone is the mother or father of or knows of someone who has special needs, we invite them to contact us and find out when they can watch what we do,” she said. “Our dancers can’t wait to get in here and show off what they have learned, and to see and hear how excited they are to dance reminds our volunteers why we are here in the first place.”

Photo: Rachel Johnson dances during a recent performance.

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