EDMONTON – A six-year-old Edmonton girl with Down syndrome is proving to her peers and complete strangers that nothing can hold you back from your dreams, or the stage.
To a mashup of “Shut Up and Dance” and “I Wanna Dance With Somebody,” a video of Ana Malaniuk dancing with her dance teacher was recently posted on Facebook.
The video of Ana performing her favourite hip hop routine has been viewed nearly 10,000 times.
“She always liked dancing when the music came on, she liked the beat so I said, ‘Let’s give it a shot,'” Sonja Malaniuk, Ana’s mom, said.
Getting Ana enrolled in dance wasn’t as easy as that, though. Sonja said Ana was turned away from another local dance studio.
“We had a bad experience at one of the studios. We were told she wasn’t welcome, she wasn’t to their standards,” Sonja said.
Ana lives with Down syndrome, a genetic disorder which causes lifelong intellectual disability and developmental delays. But she doesn’t let it hold her back, and her energy on the dance floor is infectious.
After being turned away, Sonja contacted Amanda’s Academy of Dance and the studio welcomed Ana with open arms.
“I just feel that it’s very important that any little girl or boy who wants to dance should be able to dance and be given the opportunity,” Amanda Desousa said.
Watch below: Ana’s mom, teacher share stories of her love of dance
Desousa has owned and operated Amanda’s Academy of Dance in Edmonton for 15 years. The studio offers a specialized program for kids with different abilities.
“It’s great for the kids, it’s great for our instructors and it’s great for our other students as well,” Desousa said. “Seeing the confidence and seeing the friendships that are made is probably the most rewarding, on top of, of course, learning to dance and the dance training.”
“She’s such a joy to have in class… She’s helped me grow as a teacher,” Ana’s teacher Shae-Lyn Bates said.
Ana’s been with Amanda’s Academy of Dance for a year now and her mom said her growth has been incredible.
“She’s met so many friends,” Sonja said. “Her confidence has grown hugely and she just loves it.
“To see her on the stage, to see her with the teachers, to see her happy… It’s amazing to see that people are willing to give her a chance.”