Do you dance? Honestly, I don’t. Well, I did dance at my wedding. And I have to admit that I’m sort of a sucker for my two-year-old’s requests to dance with him. But beyond that, no, I don’t really dance. Maybe you’re sort of in the same boat. But let me ask you this: what if people just assumed your couldn’t dance? What if nobody ever gave you a chance to dance? What if your body didn’t work in a way where movement, and coordination, and freedom came easily?
If you were in that situation, and there was somebody out there willing to take the time to help, teach, and work beside you to give you the opportunity to dance, wouldn’t that be pretty special? Yes, yes it would. Getting to experience that fun, freedom, and joy would be very special. Special not just for you, but also for the people who love you and want to give you the chance to embrace life’s simple pleasures.
Yes, You Can Dance! is a wonderfully unique and life-affirming organization that provide opportunities to dance for those with special needs, disabilities, chronic degenerative diseases, and senior citizens. Founded just six years ago, Yes, You Can Dance! is now operating at it’s original South Hills location in Mt. Lebanon, a recently opened North Hills site, a special program on Pitt’s campus for participants with MS, and in senior care facilities all around the region.
Their program is both simple and inspiring. Experienced dance instructors consult with experts familiar with each particular populations therapeutic needs to design dance programs focused on what each group needs for fun, health, and community. Volunteers are trained to be dance partners (no prior experience necessary), and dance alongside the program’s participants. The volunteers are supporters, not teachers. They are there as helping partners who enjoy the class right alongside of the program participants.
The special needs classes in the South and North Hills are taught at four different levels, according to the participant’s experience, and last for 6 weeks at a time on Sunday afternoons. The MS class at Pitt follows a similar schedule, but the volunteers in this setting are students and instructors from Pitt’s Physical Therapy program. The dancing at local senior care centers and nursing homes is more a one-time (or re-occurring) dance party known as a “Senior Social” – instructors and volunteers come on site for a visit to dance the day away facility residents.
One of the coolest aspects of the Yes, You Can Dance! program is The Special Needs Dance Troupe. These experienced performers are available for hire at private, corporate, and community events. They can be brought in to come and perform a few dances from their large repertoire of ballroom disciplines. Their joy is infectious and guaranteed to liven up even the stodgiest of gatherings.
How Can You Help?
Does this sound like fun? Could it be something you’d enjoy getting on board with? Excellent! There are a number of great ways to join in on the fun. More volunteers are always needed, especially in the North Hills as that location is both new and growing. Additionally, volunteers who would be available during typical business hours (daytime during the week) are important for the Senior Socials and other special short-term events. Remember, you don’t have to be a dance pro, just willing to join in the fun. You’ll be taught all you need to know, and then your job is to go be supportive and listen to the music. I’ve been told it would be especially great is a larger group, like a church or a club were interested in volunteering. Please consider!
With regards to financial giving, Yes, You Can Dance! is almost entirely supported through individual donors and no participant is ever turned away because they lack the financial ability to pay to be a part of the group. The organization would love to expand into other areas of the city and in their relationships with other local organizations. If your’e interested, they are currently seeking to raise funds for a challenge grant. If they can raise $50,000 by November, they will have that money matched through this grant. Wouldn’t helping them meet that goal be a great way to encourage these locals to continue bettering the burgh?