I smile as I sit back and look at photos of my daughter’s childhoods. Although they are so very different, one a special girl, and one with special needs they are still in many ways so much alike. Both love to dress up, paint their nails, listen to music, and both love to dance.
When Rebeka was younger it was a no brainer that she would take ballet, that was a given, just like she would be a brownie, attend Sunday school, and play with her friends. She would take ballet as all little girls did, I did, my mother-in-law did naturally my daughter would. We bought the black leotard, pink ballet slippers, pink tights and plenty of scrunches to pull the hair tight and back. She danced off and on for years finally ending up studying jazz with a private instructor, she never was a very “disciplined ballerina” and jazz fit her much better. I used to drag Ainsley when she was but a wee babe to all of Rebeka’s classes and as she grew older I wished that she too could dance but understood that would be impossible with her disabilities.
The hardest part of the year for me was Rebeka’s end-of-year recital. I was so proud as I watched her dance with joy and then saddened and wished that my little Ainsley could be up on that stage too. Through the years we attended many recitals and had the bittersweet feeling of joy for one child and sorry that another would not know that simple joy.
But then Becky, Ainsley’s Physical Therapist told us about a program at Maryland Youth Ballet that she was working on. Becky along with MYB’s Jennifer Cox, a 30-year dance professional, who was inspired by her own granddaughter’s desire to dance despite a disability, developed a program to allow children to enjoy the beauty of music and motion, and gain the benefits of the physical therapy.
Becky described the program and told us that at Maryland Youth Ballet’s new Silver Spring dance facility a state-of-the-art overhead track system was created which allows each dancer to participate without the aid of a volunteer. She then described that dancers are suspended with the aid of a vest sling and attached to a traverse rail system hung in the ceiling giving the dancers complete range of motion. My goodness how I just knew Ainsley would love this!
After listening to Becky talk about the program I immediately jumped at the chance to enroll Ainsley in the summer classes. Every week when Ainsley would go to her ballet class I pulled out the same outfit that Rebeka used to wear so many years ago, the black leotard, black tights and pink ballet slippers. Ainsley loved going to class, and she loved “dancing” in the track system. And for one brief moment I remember the recitals and closed my eyes and “saw” my little Ainsley and she was dancing!