For the past few years, the Dance Fusion studio in Holt, MI opened its doors to a local girl named Emma, a teenager with Down syndrome. For those who know her, Emma is a typical teenage girl in most ways. She grew up singing and dancing along to High School Musical and then Glee, she has crushes on celebrity heartthrobs, she enjoys texting on her hot pink cell phone, she butts heads with her parents about helping out with household chores, and she complains about getting out of bed so early for yet another day of the seemingly endless school year. Unfortunately for Emma, as she grew up, many people she came in contact with, peers and adults alike, chose to look at her in terms of her limitations, rather than her potential... choosing to see and judge only the handful of ways in which she was different, rather than the multitude of ways she was simply a teenage girl with feelings and passions and dreams and aspirations. As a result she was frequently told "no" when she wanted to participate in various school and extracurricular activities, and she was often bullied and teased in school. So many chose to focus on how Emma's involvement could possibly take away from the other participants, rather than what it could bring to them.
Fortunately for Emma, the instructors at Dance Fusion welcomed her with open arms. Where others chose to leave Emma behind, Dance Fusion chose to make her a part of their family, and as a result, her weekly dance classes became a safe-haven for Emma. For most people, the act of letting Emma participate in general classes would likely have been enough. But for Emma's instructor it wasn't enough. She saw the joy Emma derived from dance and her passion for performing, and as Emma's senior year approached, she wanted to give Emma something more... a once in a lifetime experience, perhaps. So she made a choice to allow Emma to audition for the competition squad and to ask her dancers if they would be willing to participate in the development of a special group routine that would include Emma and would be performed on the competition circuit.
In mid-April, the Dance Fusion team, Emma included, attended their first competition and performed "Emma's Dance" in front of a cheering crowd of both friends and strangers. Perhaps because this group of dancers made a choice to embrace Emma, they helped a crowd of people so often focused on "perfection" and "being the best" to embrace Emma and their dance as well. It wasn't a technically perfect routine, but it was perfectly beautiful, perfectly joy-filled, perfectly compassionate, and perfectly inspiring. I wasn't at Emma's competition, but I have seen the photos and videos of the team and Emma since the event. I can tell you this; in the 12 years I have known Emma, I have never seen her hold her head so high or smile so big!