By AMANDA GIBB
Pegasus Dance Studios in East York has partnered with Darby’s Dancers, an international nonprofit organization, to offer a dance education program for children with special needs.
The program has not been launched at the studio yet, but mother and daughter Jane Davis-Munro and Lara Munro are hoping to launch it toward the end of October or the beginning of November.
“As soon as we have any interest and students who are eligible, our plan is to start with some private sessions with interested students…Once we have a few students doing that and we get to know them, and their abilities and strengths, we can put them in a class and group together,” said Munro, customer care and studio manager.
Darby’s Dancers was created by Darby Jones’ parents in Huntsville, Alabama, to carry on their daughter’s legacy and love of dance. Darby was an avid dancer who had Down syndrome and passed away in 2013 from leukemia.
“Her parents decided they would start a foundation to make it open to all children of all abilities to be able to continue to dance. This movement was started in the United States, and we are the first Canadian studio to take this project on…once they made it an international program,” said art director Davis-Munro.
Darby’s Dancers is a program offered at no cost to parents or guardians.
“We would fund, and any private people or businesses would fund this to make it available to parents. So the cost of the class, any dance-wear, any costuming, would all be covered by donations or fundraising,” said Davis-Munro.
Davis-Munro said she first heard about Darby and her story through involvement with organizations More Than Just Great Dancing and Youth Protection Advocates in Dance.
“Their theories and their mission and vision seemed to align with what we were doing here, so we signed on and got coaching, and that’s when I first heard about Darby’s Dancers. At a conference about five years ago I talked to Darby’s mother,” she said.
Davis-Munro said that it wasn’t the right time for Darby’s mother to launch the program in Canada, so she waited and stayed in connection with her until the time was right.
Munro said that dance within the community is important for children.
“For children to have a physical and creative outlet we know is so important for their physical health, their mental and emotional health, and also for their development as creative thinkers and whole well-rounded people,” said Munro.
She said that what children learn in the studio goes beyond just dancing—they learn skills like teamwork, co-operation, musicality, and build their self-esteem.
“That’s why we feel that dance and arts education is so important for our children…We’re so thrilled to be back in person with our students,” said Munro.
Davis-Munro and Munro are looking for their first round of students interested in dance and people or businesses who would like to donate to help keep the program operational.
Both Davis-Munro and Munro have also completed a certification program called Rhythm Works.
“It’s an integrated dance program for children with diverse abilities and needs, and we’ll be incorporating that training into our Darby’s Dancers program,” said Munro.
Pegasus Dance Studios is located at 361 Glebeholme Blvd. in a building attached to the Kimbourne Park United Church.
To learn more about Darby’s Dancers and Pegasus Dance Studios, visit https://www.pegasusstudios.com