When a pair of friends saw the lack of arts programs for individuals with Down syndrome, they decided to use their dance experience to fill in the gap. Founded in the summer of 2017, the nonprofit organization Down for Dance brings the joy of dance to the Down syndrome community.
Co-founder Annie Griffith explains:
Our mission is to empower individuals with Down syndrome to build a stronger sense of self through dance. There are sports and other activities out there for individuals with disabilities, but there’s not as much high-quality arts programming.
The duo offers a variety of classes, from hip-hop and musical theater to yoga. The classes give individuals with Down syndrome an opportunity to have fun, as well as socialize and improve their gross motor skills. Parent Diana Yoo shares:
We are so thankful for DFD, where Kayla can live out her passion for dance and be surrounded by adults and peers who also share her love for dance.
We love DFD as it doesn’t “water down” [routines] or make [them] too easy, but challenges our children with good choreography and [has] high expectations [for] the dancers. DFD has taught Kayla how to follow directions in class, interact with others appropriately, learn choreography, and has helped improve her gross motor skills.
Though coronavirus has recently prevented Down for Dance from meeting in person, it has enabled them to expand their reach beyond the Long Beach and Orange County area, with Zoom classes including participants from the east coast as well as the west coast. Now there are 90 participants across 16 states! Griffith’s own brother Sam even joins from Pennsylvania.
But they don’t want to stop there, says co-founder Sari Anna Thomas:
Our vision is to spread this around the world so that every individual with Down syndrome has access to high quality dance classes.
Know someone who might be interested in participating? Down for Dance is offering free classes for the week of August 31 in Hip Hop, Yoga, Musical Theater, and Art Exploration. What a fun way for individuals with Down syndrome to stay active during the coronavirus quarantine!