Bloomfield Hills dance program hosts first adapted ballroom dance competition

By: Mary Genson | Birmingham-Bloomfield Eagle | Published July 13, 2022

 Cheryl Angelelli and her partner, Tamerlan Gadirove, compete in ballroom dancing competitions around the world.

Cheryl Angelelli and her partner, Tamerlan Gadirove, compete in ballroom dancing competitions around the world.

Photo provided

BLOOMFIELD HILLS — Dance Mobility’s Adapted Ballroom Dance Competition — the first of its kind in the United States — will take place at Roeper Lower School in Bloomfield Hills July 16.

The Bloomfield Hills Fred Astaire Dance Studio offers the only wheelchair ballroom dancing program for adults and children in Michigan.

Dance Mobility is supported by a grant from the Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan Foundation.

All styles of dance are offered at the Dance Mobility Program. Free classes are available for wheelchair ballroom group classes, or participants can receive private lessons for a fee.

Dance Mobility co-founder Cheryl Angelelli is a four-time Paralympic medalist. She began taking ballroom dancing classes at Fred Astaire Dance Studios in 2014.

The program has offered accessible classes to the community since 2015.

“When I started it, it was a wheelchair ballroom dance program, but since then we have expanded it,” Angelelli said.

One of the recent ways Dance Mobility has grown is by offering a program for amputees.

Angelelli and her partner, Tamerlan Gadirove, have competed in the international competition Para Dance Sport. However, before Dance Mobility announced its competition, there were no competitions in the United States.

“When we go to compete, there have never been any competitions just for wheelchair users in the United States,” Angelelli said. “So when he and I compete in the United States, we’re always competing against standing couples, and if we want to compete against other people with disabilities, we have to go to Europe or Asia or Australia, where they are having those competitions.”

Since that kind of travel is not always financially viable for many people, Dance Mobility’s Adapted Ballroom Dance Competition was started to make competing more accessible.

Something about Dance Mobility’s Adapted Ballroom Dance Competition that will be different from Para Dance Sport is that it will include participation from amputees in addition to wheelchair users.

Many of the things that are present in a traditional ballroom dancing competition will be offered at this competition, such as solo events and partner dancing.

Dancers from throughout the nation will be traveling to Bloomfield Hills for this competition for adults and children. The youngest competitor is 8 years old.

“We are really looking forward to this just being the kickstarter and getting more people aware of it and competing next year,” Angelelli said.

Co-founder of Dance Mobility and owner of Fred Astaire Bloomfield Hills Evan Mountain said the program began as a way to help individuals in wheelchairs grow confidence and their social circle, but as the program went on, he noticed the standing partners grew as well.

“They start to realize that they can have a connection and just because of some physical issue that is in the way, that doesn’t prevent them from looking at them as just a person,” Mountain said.

The competition will be judged by Genice Marquez, Marylynn Benitez and Izabela Jaworska. Marquez is the head coach of the Philippine National Team Paradance Sport.

“I am excited to be able to highlight wheelchair ballroom dancing, because it’s something that most people, including people that use wheelchairs, do not think is a possibility. We specifically at the Fred Astaire Dance Studios are wanting to show that wheelchairs can be included in the ballroom experience,” Benitez said.

Tickets to the competition cost $15 for spectators and can be bought online or at the door. The competition will begin at 2 p.m.