BLOOMFIELD HILLS — Dance Mobility’s adaptive ballroom dancing competition — the first of its kind in the United States — will take place at Roeper Lower School in Bloomfield Hills on July 16.
The Bloomfield Hills Fred Astaire Dance Studio offers Michigan’s only wheelchair ballroom dancing program for adults and children.
Dance Mobility is supported by a grant from the Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan Foundation.
All dance styles are offered in the Dance Mobility Program. Free lessons are available for group wheelchair ballroom lessons, or participants can receive private lessons for a fee.
Dance Mobility co-founder Cheryl Angelelli is a four-time Paralympic medalist. She began taking ballroom dancing lessons at Fred Astaire Dance Studios in 2014.
The program has been offering courses accessible to the community since 2015.
“When I started it was a wheelchair ballroom dancing program, but since then we’ve expanded it,” Angelelli said.
One of the recent ways Dance Mobility has expanded is to offer a program for amputees.
Angelelli and her partner, Tamerlan Gadirove, participated in the international Para Dance Sport competition. However, before Dance Mobility announced its competition, there was no competition in the United States.
“When we’re going to compete, there’s never been a wheelchair user-only competition in the United States,” Angelelli said. “So when he and I compete in the United States, we’re always competing against standing couples, and if we want to compete against other people with disabilities, we have to go to Europe or Asia or Australia, where they organize these competitions.
Since this type of travel is not always financially viable for many people, Dance Mobility’s Adapted Ballroom Dancing Competition was launched to make competition more accessible.
Something about Dance Mobility’s Adapted Ballroom Dancing competition that will be different from Para Dance Sport is that it will include the participation of amputees in addition to wheelchair users.
Many things that are present in a traditional ballroom dancing competition will be offered in this competition such as solo events and couple dances.
Dancers from across the country will travel to Bloomfield Hills for this competition for adults and children. The youngest competitor is 8 years old.
“We’re really looking forward to this being the trigger and more people being aware of it and competing next year,” Angelelli said.
Dance Mobility co-founder and owner of Fred Astaire Bloomfield Hills, Evan Mountain, said the program started as a way to help people in wheelchairs build their confidence and social circle, but over time As the program continued, he noticed that the permanent partners also grew.
“They’re starting to realize they can have a connection and it’s not because of some physical issue that’s stopping them from thinking of them as just a person,” Mountain said.
The competition will be judged by Genice Marquez, Marylynn Benitez and Izabela Jaworska. Marquez is the head coach of the Philippine national team Paradance Sport.
“I’m thrilled to be able to shine a light on wheelchair ballroom dancing, as it’s something that most people, including people in wheelchairs, don’t think is a possibility. In particular, at Fred Astaire Dance Studios, we want to show that wheelchairs can be included in the ballroom experience,” said Benitez.
Tickets for the competition are $15 for spectators and can be purchased online or at the door. The competition will start at 2 p.m.