A World-Class Para Dance Program Right Here in Michigan

When people talk about ballroom dance, they use words like grace, beauty, and strength.

It’s those words—and feelings of joy, passion, and exhilaration—that drive FADS Michigan to ensure ballroom dance is accessible to all people.

Our Bloomfield Hills studio hosted its second annual Para Dance Training during the weekend of July 12th – 14th, a remarkable three-day event filled with camaraderie and enthusiasm for making wheelchair ballroom dance a reality for those with different abilities.

We created the three-day training in 2018 to train ballroom dance instructors to teach wheelchair ballroom dance – making ballroom truly accessible for anyone. It was so successful, we expanded the event this year, in partnership with the international Para Dance Sport governing body, to empower more than 30 dance instructors from around the United States to teach wheelchair ballroom dance.

Para Dance expert Maricarmen Legaspi, lead instructor, and Camilla Rodriguez, director of World Para Dance Sport, part of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), designed each day’s events to deepen instructor knowledge. Highlights included engaging choreography, group activities and class discussion, and learning about World Para Dance Sport history.

Four-time Paralympic swimming medalist Cheryl Angelelli and her dance instructor-partner Tamerlan Gadirov demonstrated Para Dance at the training.

Nataliya Kolesova, a Ukrainian Para DanceWorld Champion, and Ivan Sovetov, her dancing partner from Syracuse Fred Astaire Dance Studio, treated us to a beautiful performance. Kolesova, injured in a car accident at age 21, overcame incredible odds to become a world-class athlete and a staunch disability rights advocate.

Natalyia Kolesova

Instructors left the training energized and enthusiastic to teach wheelchair ballroom dance across the country. Though a big sport around the world, wheelchair dance, or Para Dance, is still relatively unknown in the United States—something we aim to change.

The IPC would like to add a U.S. Para Dance team by the 2028 Paralympic Games in Los Angeles. While Para Dance Sport didn’t qualify for the Paris games in 2024, Rodriguez is hopeful that with the addition of new teams, the sport will be added to the 2028 itinerary.

In the past, we’ve promoted Para Dance as a social activity. Now, our desire is to also train dancers to compete in the international arena. As wheelchair ballroom dance becomes more popular, we aim to grow our Para Dance program, develop competitors, and hope to send Para Dance champions to the 2028 Paralympic Games from right here in Michigan.