Lakewood Ranch’s Rossana Schmidt sat in the corner of a ballroom at Dynasty Dance Club’s new Lakewood Ranch and watched her 29-year-old daughter, Bryanna, waltz with instructor Colton Gannon.
Bryanna suffers from epilepsy, which causes seizures and has limited her ability to socialize and participate in activities over the years.
“She had no friends,” Rossana Schmidt said. “Now look at her. She is radiant. She is excited. Every time I look at these children I have tears in my eyes because they have come so far.
Bryanna participates in private and group lessons through the Dynasty Stars program, which offers ballroom dancing lessons to children and young adults with special needs. She has taken classes in Sarasota at Dynasty Dance for the past three years, but is now part of the inaugural group of Stars participants at Dynasty’s new Lakewood Ranch, 7313 International Place. A
The Wednesday afternoon group class was launched on August 14.
Sarah Lototskyy, who owns Dynasty Dance Clubs with her husband, Maks, has previously said she hopes to add a group lesson on Thursday nights.
“We want to reach more people,” Lototskyy said. “It started off as something fun to do. We saw a huge upside.
She and Gannon launched the Stars program in 2016 with three dancers, including Bryanna Schmidt. It now has about 50 regular attendees at the Sarasota site.
Lototskyy said she and Gannon teach The Stars no differently than their other students. They are challenged to master each dance level by learning different steps and moves as they progress, much like martial arts students earn different colored belts as they progress.
They sometimes make adjustments if necessary, especially if safety is a concern. For example, Bryanna Schmidt danced from a chair after having a seizure during class.
Gannon said Stars students, who sometimes struggle with personal space and physical touch, have the opportunity to learn to overcome these issues because they dance with partners.
“There’s a social aspect to it,” Gannon said. “It’s their group of friends. It gives them a sense of belonging. »
More advanced Star participants are also encouraged to try non-Star group classes, so they are more challenged. Gannon said it builds empathy and teaches non-star dancers that people with special needs might need help.
Gannon said parents are often skeptical and don’t believe their children will be able to master ballroom dancing. However, after dancing and training dancers with special needs, Gannon said he knew they were wrong and enjoyed breaking their expectations.
“We do this to our best friends and the people we love the most – we put limits on them,” Gannon said.
Colleen Buccieri said she has seen her now 19-year-old godson, Jordan Soriano, flourish since starting the band and, most importantly, private lessons.
“It gives the child something they own,” Buccieri said. “It gives them confidence to go out and do what they choose to do. They can choose their own music. They can help choose their own costumes. A little help with the routine. It’s something they totally own, and they can play it.
Buccieri is the founder of Face Autism, a nonprofit organization that provides sensory activities, support groups, referrals for therapy services, and other resources to families affected by autism. Through her organization, she helped Dynasty Dance Clubs recruit dancers and pay for their lessons.
Dancers in the Dynasty Stars program receive group lessons for $10 per lesson. Private lessons are also available at a reduced rate.
Face Autism helps cover most of the remaining costs for participants through grants. Last year, he received about $20,000 in tuition grants, Buccieri said.
The association also recovers the costumes of the participants and pays for the hotel rooms for the competitions.
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