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Finding a Truly Inclusive Dance Studio for My Daughter With a Disability

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I had to politely explain the difference between diversity and inclusion to someone the other day who ignorantly told me, “All dance studios are inclusive.”

Um, no.

Being the mama of a child with a lower limb amputation and a chronic heart condition, I knew this was not the case.

We had one studio flat out tell us Callie was not welcome. They only accepted little girls that could do the moves correctly and could be “real dancers.” They were considered one of the best studios in the area.

Because this mama very rarely accepts no for an answer, we waited a bit and then tried a different one. This one said they would take Callie and we were thrilled.

But they weren’t inclusive. They were happy to let her be in class and take our monthly dues, but they didn’t adapt things for her. They expected her to be able to do the same movements the other little girls did — even though she has a prosthetic leg and it was not physically possible for her. They didn’t make any modifications to the activities, nor would they allow her to be part of the yearly performance because she couldn’t do the moves with her prosthetic like the other girls and they claimed it would be disruptive to the program. So we left that studio after two lessons.

Callie rehearsing.

Finally, we were introduced to our current studio, which we love. Callie not only was welcomed with open arms, but they have adapted and modified things for her so she can fully participate to the utmost of her abilities.  She is celebrated for her unique talents and gifts. She is treated like a member of the team and never sidelined or asked to sit anything out. If she needs a break, they give her a break because they understand her endurance is not the same as the other dancers. She is just blooming on stage and is so incredibly excited about her upcoming production of “The Nutcracker.”

“Diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion is being asked to dance.”

Callie on stage, seen from behind.

Originally published: December 27, 2019
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