On Ballroom and Down Syndrome

In an earlier post I mentioned the use of ballroom dance in treating people suffering from Parkinson’s. This post about another connection, one between ballroom and Down Syndrome. Although a local (Cincinnati) story, it’s one that is applicable elsewhere

This touching article recently appeared in the Cincinnati Enquirer, and I post it because the paper will soon archive their posts; thus I want to keep the message alive.

“Dancers Set Down Syndrome Benefit”, Cincinnati Enquirer, June 14, 2009, Written by Quan Truong, Link

When John Nusekabel is on the dance floor, he’ll occasionally stop, look in the mirror and tuck in his shirt – making sure he looks his best for the next lucky girl. Whether it’s tango, the jitterbug or swing, he grabs the hands of his partner and moves across the studio with a big smile on his face.

Those watching are amazed, especially those who know that the 32-year-old with Down Syndrome wasn’t expected to live. Five months after he was born, doctors said he had a hole in his heart the size of a nickel. He was given a 5 percent chance of surviving his open-heart surgery. Today, the man his mother calls a “miracle” waltzed his way across the dance floor. His favorite part of dancing? “The girls and the music,” he said, with a shy smile.

Nusekabel and about a dozen others with Down Syndrome have been taking a free ballroom dance class offered by the owner of A-Marika Dance Company in Sharonville. Located on Sharondale road, the studio has become somewhat of a second home for the dance students.

Lizzy Lenhart, 15, has been taking the classes for a year. Since then, she has built tremendous self-confidence and forged friendships with the other students, her mother said. “She has never missed a class, and it means everything to her,” said Karen Lenhart of Montgomery. “It gets her up in the morning for school because there’s dance at night.”

On June 20, Nusekabel, Lizzy and the other students will be able to show off their new talent at a fundraiser for the Down Syndrome Association of Greater Cincinnati. The studio’s first “Dancing with Our Stars,” will feature guests Kristina Cruise, a television reporter for WLWT Channel 5, and Cincinnati Police Chief Tom Streicher.

Owner and instructor Mary Ramirez Cook decided last year to offer the free classes. She has a 7-year-old son who has Down Syndrome. “I wanted to see what their capabilities are and what I have to look forward to,” she said. “He loves to dance, and I wanted to see how far he could ever go into it.”

The results surprised her. In the past year, the students have learned to swing, foxtrot, tango and waltz. “It’s become my favorite class, and even though I don’t charge for it, I’ve gotten the most out of it,” she said.

Mary Vonderbrink, of Kenwood, takes her 25-year-old daughter Kristen to the class every week. She hopes the event will spread awareness and encourage more young adults to join the class. “I hope more will experience what the students here have experienced,” she said. “It develops self-confidence and teaches skills that are so much fun. Each and every time I come here, I’m amazed.”

The fundraiser will be held at the studio, 10831 Sharondale Road, from 4-8 p.m. Tickets are $10. For more information on the class, visit www.a-marika.com.

For more information about Down Syndrome: National Down Syndrome Society

“Dancers Set Down Syndrome Benefit”, Cincinnati Enquirer, June 14, 2009, Written by Quan Truong, Link