The Special Olympics World Games had some other stars beyond the athletes performing this weekend. I had the distinct pleasure of watching the dancers from Free 2 Be Me Dance performing at USC for all the Special Olympics World Games attendees. Free 2 Be Me Dance is an adaptive ballet, tap and hip-hop class for Los Angeles children and adults with Down Syndrome. A class where, when the students dance, they are completely accepted, happy, and confident. This incredible dance troupe was founded by Colleen Perry, a former ballet dancer, and a current Marriage and Family therapist. Colleen founded this group after reading an article about Boston Ballet’s adaptive dance program that worked with Children’s Hospital Boston.
In class, the kids are able to learn dance movements, coordination, and how to follow directions in these classes. They also learn how to work together as a class, learning to help and encourage one another, following directions, learning left from right, separate upper and lower body movements, coordinating movements to stop and start on cue, improving focus, adding movements they have invented, improved balance, coordination, posture and alignment, and increased pride in their accomplishments, in an emotionally safe environment. And, this was certainly on display Saturday as these dancing stars dazzled the crowd with their moves, and their bright smiles. In particular, the crowd was moved by the free style solos where each of the kids had their moment to shine. It was truly inspiring and brought a lot of emotion to the spectators.
In particular, I really enjoyed watching my friend Valena Kofler participate. Kofler has Down Syndrome and she is going to be in 10th grade at my high school. She and I have only been friends for about a year now, when we met in the club “Friendship Circle”, but it feels as though we have been friends much longer than that. She is such a kind person, and I truly feel that I can share my issues with her and she listens and supports me. She is also incredibly outgoing and full of life, which inspires me to embrace myself and stop being so shy! Kofler is an inspiration mostly because she just does not focus on the bad, only the good. She is herself and follows her own self-identity in making decisions. She is truly inspirational.
So, congratulations to Kofler, and to her dance company Free 2 Be Me Dance. You gave the Special Olympics World Games crowd a treat as you danced for us- you touched our hearts, and we thank you for sharing your gifts with us.