The program was created in part by dance instructor Terra Summers. Her day job is providing care for those with special needs, including her friend Emily, who is the other creator of the program.
“She has cerebral palsy and loves to dance more than anybody I know,” Terra said.
Terra said the idea of Dancing with Friends first came about four years ago and was relatively simple.
“We’re like, ‘Hey, you have a studio and you like to dance and I have friends and I like to dance. So why don't we all get together and dance with our friends,’" Terra recalled.
Now they have two weekly classes with 10 or more people in each. Each dancer has some type of developmental disability or more accurately, each has a varying level of dance ability.
It didn't take long to figure out, there were benefits here, beyond fun.
"Then we realized this is exercise,” Terra said. “You don't even realize you're building endurance and strength and getting that heart rate up, which is harder when you're in a wheelchair and have ability that limits you from walking or running."
One of the weekly classes is a performance class, in which they work on a single routine complete with props and perform it in public a couple of times a year.
"I realized the value of repetition and them knowing what to expect,” Terra said. “Just feeling proud of something and getting better at it and memorizing it and then being able to show off!"
While there are physical, emotional and developmental benefits of the program, Terra and the participants say those are really just incidental.
They prefer to think of the class as a celebration of music, life, diversity and, above all, just a way to dance with their friends.