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Dance Center Offers New Program For Amputees

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - Many people think of dance as a form of entertainment or exercise, but what about a form of therapy?

The Pittsburgh Dance Center in Bloomfield has a new program that is doing more than just teach dance.

The Embrace Dance Project is teaching dance to amputees and anyone with a significant gait dysfunction or even in a wheelchair. Many of the students in the program are veterans.

Dave Jilson, of Gibsonia, lost his leg to cancer.

"I would have never dreamed I would be taking dance lessons," he said.

Now, he and his wife, Roberta, are dancing together for the first time in nine years.

Bill Werkeiser and his wife, Heather, from Apollo, had taken some ballroom dancing before he had to have both legs amputated.

He says, "This is actually my first time dancing as an amputee, so it's challenging."

He also says that "as an amputee, we find excuses not to do stuff, and it's so easy. Those excuses are many and numerous for us not to get off the couch or to stay seated. This is something that gets us out in the community."

Holly Dayton-Kirby created the ballroom dance classes for amputees at her studio, the Pittsburgh Dance Center, because she says everyone should dance.

Her husband, Dr. Anthony Kirby, works with amputees in the hospital and at the studio. He says the program is "therapeutic in many ways, both psychologically and emotionally, as well as with dancing, learning lateral movement forward and backward stuff."

Anthony, Holly and the students all adapt as they go since there's no lesson book on how to teach dance to people without real feet or legs.

In fact, prosthetic knees were designed for forward motion only. Dr. Kirby says that's been the biggest challenge because there's a lot of forward and backward motion in dancing.

But it's the life experiences outside the studio where the lessons can really mean the most.

Dave Jilson was never one to get up and dance, but he says, "Now, I go to a wedding and I look forward to the dance part."

The classes take place every other Saturday at the Pittsburgh Dance Center and they're always taking new students.

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