At all-inclusive ballet classes, ‘special things happen’ for special-needs children, and their parents

  • Keira McGuire

Lee Marriott says dancing is something everyone can do with their body, but not everyone was getting the chance. She says it took about five years to find a ballet academy that was willing and able to house an all-inclusive class open to children of all abilities. Finally, she connected with Pennsylvania Ballet Academy in Camp Hill and the bALLet class was born.

Keira McGuire / WITF

Grace Jackson and Annaleigh Vogelsong warm up before bALLet class.

Grace Jackson was one of the first students in the bALLet class. Her mom, Suzanne Jackson, didn’t have high expectations. In fact, she wasn’t sure that Grace would be able to do ballet. Suzanne believes Grace has cerebral palsy, and when Grace first started bALLet, she was walking only with the support of her mom’s hand.

About six months ago, Grace walked into class unsupported. Her mom watched in disbelief along with other moms who have come to know each other well. Suzanne believes it was Grace’s love of bALLet that motivated her to take those steps.

Annaleigh Vogelsong has also been coming to bALLet since it began. Her mom, Bridgette Vogelsong, says Annaleigh lights up when she knows it’s a bALLet day. Bridgette says the class has also impacted her mental health in a positive way.

“Being here with other moms, getting to know them and getting to know their kids and looking at how happy we can be and how fully functioning we are in the community, it’s really helpful to my mental health and it keeps me really happy,” Bridgette Vogelsong said.

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