Five Miami-Dade high-schoolers are turning the art of dance into the heart of dance, making a grand jeté for children with Down syndrome and other special needs.
“We want to spread our knowledge to kids that don’t have the same opportunity as us,” says Andrea Villamizar, a ninth-grader at Doral Academy Prep. “We want to promote the love of dance to the special ones.”
Villamizar and her four fellow young dancers have recently founded the non-profit Everlasting Dance Foundation, with the goal of improving the lives of kids with special needs through dance.
Its debut program launches Sept. 7 at Dancing in XS Dance Studio in Doral, where the dancers are students.
“I started in recreational dance classes when I was about 2 years old,” says Villamizar, a member of her high school’s Rubies Dance Team.
“I was able to dance with kids with Down syndrome for a couple of years, and friendships started to form.
“I would go to many competitions and conventions and I would never see any kids with Down syndrome. I realized that these kids don’t have the opportunity to experience the same things as us. So even if we can’t get them to the competition world, our goal is to give them the experience of performing on a stage, with an audience, in a real recital so that they could feel the thrill of performing, and the love of dance.”
The students will be invited to perform at Dancing In XS’s annual recital at the end of the year. The studio’s owner, Colombian native Adriana Nassif, has been a major supporter of Everlasting Dance, which was also founded by Doral Academy Prep students Kyana Fernandez, Vanessa Gomez and Liliana Caputo, and Sofia Posada, who attends Miami Arts Studio 6-12 @ Zelda Glazer. The program’s teacher is Jojo Anez, former owner of Doral Dance Center.
“I have always integrated Down syndrome children in my dance programs,” says Anez, who began her ballet studies at age 7 in Venezuela. “It was always one of my dreams to create a group specifically dedicated to them. I grew up with Juli, my very extra special sister, so I know what they are capable of achieving. They have so much to give, and they enjoy music so much, that I think it is one of their strongest talents to be developed and to give people the pleasure and opportunity to watch them performing to it.”
The Everlasting Dance program, Saturdays at 10am, will comprise 30 minutes of dance technique and 30 minutes of developmentally appropriate choreography, allowing kids to explore movements and creativity through rhythm and music, as well as develop social, emotional and physical skills.
The first class is free. Tuition is $40 per month with a $20 registration fee. Dancing in XS Dance Studio is at 3750 NW 114 Ave., Suite 8. For more information, please call 305-477-7177 or visit www.everlastingdancefoundation.org