The story of danceability began in January 2007 as a conversation between two friends. Christine, a special education teacher and Robin, a Hospice social worker at the time, had something in common; they both had been lifelong dancers: Robin from age 3, Christine from age 5.
Both women had a passion for dance and despite other career choices, they knew that dance still needed to be part of their lives. Having been dance instructors in the past, Christine and Robin agreed that there was something missing. Knowing the impact it had made on their lives, including their families’ lives, and knowing the power of dance, they wanted to bring it to those that would not have otherwise had the experience. It was with that that they began the adventure to start danceability and bring dance class to those with special needs.
The world of dance for those with special needs was certainly not their idea alone. Several programs have been developed over the years to help cancer patients, the physically disabled, and many in between. These programs have had tremendously positive results. Christine and Robin’s focus was to take it beyond a therapeutic art form, to something that could change lives. They truly believed that by “going to dance class,” at their own studio, dancers would learn things they might not learn anywhere else. Dance would be the catalyst to reach out to those families who were challenged day to day with loved ones with disabilities. Their studio would become a place of fun, friendship, exercise, healing, learning, support, inclusion and respite.
The teacher and social worker spent many long evenings studying and learning the finer points of business plans, budgeting, marketing, leases and building permits, not to mention government documents; all this while maintaining careers. Before the dawn of Kickstarter campaigns and crowdfunding, Robin and Christine wrote letters to everyone they knew telling them about their idea, then called Breaking Boundaries. They asked people to simply give $5 so that they would have enough for their security deposit on their studio space. The girls reached their goal, signed a lease and claimed their space in July, just 2 months before danceability was scheduled to open.
Now the grunt work began. Family and friends showed up to roll up their sleeves and work elbow to elbow with these ladies. Floors were scraped and new ones put in place, walls were painted, a barre was hung and mirrors placed. From the dust and fumes a therapeutic, warm, welcoming, user-friendly space was created. Each detail was designed around the students and their special needs.
The first registration, on a mid-August weekend, brought many new dancers and their families to the yet to be completed studio space. With a camping lantern lighting the folding table in the corner of what would be the waiting room, 64 families signed up to be the first members of danceability. With all the preparations for starting a non profit and creating an all inclusive dance program, Christine and Robin forgot one small detail; having the electricity turned on. But, they were sure to call the electric company first thing the very next day! Both ladies were so excited that all 64 families stuck with them even after this small detail was inadvertently overlooked.
Since its first year that welcomed 64 dancers and 40 volunteers, danceability has grown more than both girls ever dreamed. In its 9th year, danceability now serves over 140 students and their families with the help of over 80 volunteers. They have expanded from 1 studio to 2, one of which is a sensory studio for dancers with autism and sensory disorders.
Danceability grew from nothing to something neither woman could have dreamed of, but they aren’t finished dreaming yet. Robin and Christine hope to expand their studio space to include a better waiting room for their families to relax. They hope to hire an Assistant Director to allow them to expand their reach into the city of Buffalo. They hope to start a teacher training program that allows others to learn what they have developed in order to expand the art of dance to those with special needs.