Dancing with the Stars at the Center for Disability Services

Susanna Mommsen | January 2015

ABC’s Dancing with the Stars gets great ratings, and it’s even entertaining at times, but nothing compares to the stars at the Center for Disability Services in Albany, New York. Paired with professional dancers, these performers make their way across the stage in Pacer gait trainers and Activity chairs in a showcase of music, dance and artistic expression.


Support from The Arts Center of the Capital Region gave rise to the event modestly titled “A Showcase for Creative MOVEment,” which brought together a unique partnership of performers to make it a first-time-ever event. Students from the Albany Academy for Girls, dancers from the Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company and participants in the adult MOVE program at Center for Disability Services collaborated through a series of workshops and rehearsals to create an exhilarating and energetic presentation this fall.

MOVE (which stands for Mobility Opportunities via Education/Experience) is a research-based curriculum that teaches life-skills to people with disabilities. MOVE learners incorporate basic sitting, standing and walking skills into activities of daily living, education and recreational activities. Dancing is no exception. So the MOVE philosophy was at the heart of all practices and rehearsals of this one-of-a-kind performance group.

Like all things MOVE, practice – and lots of it – is needed to achieve even the smallest gains. And practicing for a purpose, to be part of something special, brought out the best in everybody. After the dance workshops they could stand longer, breathe better, take more steps and were noticeably happier. Not to mention the building of relationships through the teamwork (the percussionist was a favorite among the MOVE performers).

“We are not dance therapists or PTs” says Ellen Sinopoli as she introduces the final number to an auditorium filled with family, friends and faculty, “but here is an aesthetic, artistic approach to therapy.”  The five beaming performers take their places on the stage beside their professional dance partners. They are poised in their adaptive equipment, waiting for the music to begin. And these stars really shone!

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