Dance­abil­ity takes a leap of faith with ex­pan­sion

The Buffalo News - - NFL - – Scott Scan­lon

Molly Fur­minger spent an hour stretch­ing, twist­ing and turn­ing Mon­day night at the new and ex­panded Dance­abil­ity stu­dio – and why not? The 5-year-old with Down syn­drome also reg­u­larly camps, swims and skis.

“Her mom and dad let her try ev­ery­thing,” said Molly’s grand­mother, Judy Fer­rentino, who, like Molly, lives in Clarence.

It’s an ap­proach that dance stu­dio co-founders Robin Bishop and Chris­tine Dwyer have seen change since they started Dance­abil­ity in 2007 for chil­dren and adults with spe­cial needs.

“Th­ese kid­dos don’t re­al­ize there’s stuff they wouldn’t have been able to do just a few years ago, that the older kids and adults wouldn’t have done,” Bishop said. “Now, it’s like, ‘I go to dance. Why wouldn’t I go to dance? I love it.’”

Dance­abil­ity has op­er­ated largely out of the spot­light since it opened in a Union Road plaza a short drive from its new site, a for­mer flo­ral shop at 2367 Ge­orge Ur­ban Blvd. in Depew. The new digs opened last month in a 5,100-square-foot space more than twice the size of its for­mer home.

The move al­lowed the non­profit en­ter­prise to erase its wait­ing list of 20 would-be dancers and make room for even more. It also cre­ated a chal­lenge the founders hope the com­mu­nity can help them solve. The new stu­dio cost $300,000 to cre­ate. A fundrais­ing cam­paign so far has raised $130,000. There will be an open house from 6 to 8 p.m. Fri­day for those who would like to sign up for classes, vol­un­teer to guide a dancer and do­nate. Learn more at dance­abil­i­ty­ or by call­ing 651-0094.

Bishop, 39, a so­cial worker and mar­ried mother of three, be­came ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Dance­abil­ity in 2010. She and Dwyer, a Ken­more spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion teacher, raised funds through friends and fam­ily to open their first stu­dio more than a decade ago with 60 dancers and 40 vol­un­teers. Dance­abil­ity to­day has 160 dancers, 100 vol­un­teers and 10 part-time paid in­struc­tors, the lat­ter of whom all have dance train­ing and back­grounds in the help­ing fields.

“We have dancers from ages 3 to 70, boys, girls, men and women,” Bishop said. “We have a va­ri­ety of dancers with autism. We have a good num­ber of peo­ple with Down syn­drome. Then we get peo­ple with rare dis­eases and rare dis­or­ders. We have a lot of peo­ple in wheel­chairs. Some peo­ple use walk­ers.”

Dancers come once a week from Septem­ber through May. They learn a va­ri­ety of skills – tap, jazz, bal­let and creative move­ment – all in one class. “Every­body gets a lit­tle taste of ev­ery­thing and what they do best be­comes their recital rou­tine,” Bishop said. A larger wait­ing room, which in­cludes a sen­sory sec­tion, also al­lows loved ones to stay and chat, un­less they de­cide to head out for a lit­tle free time.

Robin Bishop led the Dance­abil­ity move into a new, larger stu­dio.

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