Mallory Ryan was in the first year of her master’s in occupational therapy at U of T when a classmate showed her a video of a ballet class for girls with cerebral palsy. She was immediately captivated, and knew right away that she wanted to teach children – including those with special needs – how to dance.
“I saw it as an incredible way to combine my love for dance with my newfound knowledge of – and passion for – occupational therapy,” says Ryan (MSc OT 2011), who has been dancing since she was three. As she learned more about how difficult it is for children with special needs to get into dance classes, she felt confident that her education had given her “the tools and mindset” to tackle the problem.
In 2010, Mallory and her sister, Jade Ryan (MSc OT 2013), launched the Dance Ability Movement, which provides dance classes for children – including those with special needs and those who use mobility devices. They also offer a class for teens and adults. Six studios across the GTA host the classes, with more studios waiting to start up.
The goal of the Dance Ability Movement is to remove barriers to the joy of movement, says Jade, also a longtime dancer. “Seeing a child experience those little moments in dance that have always made me feel so alive is indescribable.”