Adaptive Dance for Amputees

The ballroom teacher who lost her foot in last spring’s Boston Marathon bombings captivated the nation with her vow to dance again. A Pittsburgh studio is giving other amputees that chance with an adaptive dance program.

Pittsburgh Dance Center co-owner Holly Kirby came up with the idea after an elderly man with a cane came into the studio and asked if she could teach him to dance. At the time, she’d offered him information on private lessons, but he never returned. Not long after that, in 2012, Embrace Dance Project was born.

Kirby enlisted the help of her husband and studio co-owner Anthony Kirby, a doctor who specializes in pain management, to develop the program. Registered as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, Embrace Dance offers free ballroom dance classes twice a month to people with amputated limbs or severe gait problems.

Students attend to work on their balance, learn a new skill or simply to socialize. “I always wanted to try ballroom dancing,” 28-year-old Ivy Patterson told local newspaper The Almanac. She had her left leg amputated in 2011 due to a staph infection. “When I found out about this, it was a pleasant surprise. It’s a relaxed environment, and you get to meet and talk to new people.”

Students can bring their own partners or dance with volunteers. Attendance can include anywhere from 10 to 30 people. The studio’s website displays the slogan, “Dance! Because it’s cheaper than therapy.” Anthony told The Almanac, “It is therapy, but it’s not a support group. It’s a life group.”

Photo by Julia Rendleman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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