FL’s 1st inclusive and sensory studio
ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — The sunshine state has many dance studios that turn kids and teens into skilled dancers, giving them the technique and tools to gain confidence and succeed.
But in Maitland there is a very unique studio, an inclusive studio designed to give people of all abilities a chance to dance.
Flipping through old posters, Nicole Warren sifts through five years of productions from her studio.
“A lot of memories here,” said Warren, founder and executive director of Chance 2 Dance.
“We’ve had so much growth in such difficult times,” Warren said, pulling out posters of previous shows the studio had put up.
Warren’s nonprofit, Chance 2 Dance, is Florida’s first inclusive and sense-sensitive studio. Her mission to bring dance to everyone has spread across Central Florida, though the pandemic has slowed them down.
“Before COVID, we had just completed the first inclusive Nutcracker and it was amazing, then COVID hit. And that’s the last time we’ll be on stage,” Warren said.
But now, a return to the stage is coming soon and just in time for Christmas.
“So every season we try to do an annual production,” Warren said. “And we try to find one that makes sense and we try to choose one that is suitable for all ages, a real family. And so this year we decided to do, inspired by Charlie Brown, a story So let’s do a Charlie Blue!
They adapted the story to be inclusive for everyone and all abilities – every production they put together is. Warren’s drive to include everyone in his studio runs deep, starting with an idea that arose years earlier.
“I had just graduated from UCF and wanted to use my education degree. So I met Kirk and became his personal assistant. And he has severe cerebral palsy, so that’s how the seed was planted for Chance 2 Dance to be here today,” Warren said. “And he’s still dancing with us, he’ll be on stage in the production of Charlie Blue!”
Now Charlie Blue’s production also gives other members of the community a chance to shine.
“The story of this Christmas play is all about love,” said Tristan Barr, who plays “Charlie Blue” in the Chance 2 Dance production.
Tristan Barr skims his lines carefully, playing the lead means a lot of memorization. “It can be hard to get it all right, but it’s worth it,” he said.
“So that line is actually the best part because it actually shows the message to everyone,” Barr said, pointing to his card with the line, “Love. This must be what the Christmas spirit looks like. I don’t feel sad anymore, I feel happy and loved.”
Barr has been dancing at Chance 2 Dance for four years, always focusing on form. He said Warren wanted to make sure they were all doing their best.
“The technique is actually the most important part for us because Miss Nicole sees us challenging ourselves and also believes in us,” Barr said.
Going through the production before the big show takes hours and hours of rehearsals to make sure the play and the dances come together perfectly.
“Alright, let’s pick up from the top. Locations, action! Barr calls from the stage.
He and others here are thrilled to share their message of love to all this holiday season.
“It makes me very proud, it makes me very humble,” Warren said.
Warren said she’s so proud of what’s being done here, from the holiday production they’re about to unveil to all the dancing and programming available to everyone.
“It doesn’t matter if they’re autistic or Down’s syndrome, cerebral palsy, deaf or blind, we’re able to work with them at their level and then try to maximize that and develop them. So I think what’s really great in need because it’s created an atmosphere where you can be 100% yourself,” Warren said.
Over the past five years, Warren said she’s been grateful to see Chance 2 Dance reach so many people in the community, growing to help as many people as possible. To see what the studio has meant to so many people, she said, is nothing short of amazing.
“The message is always love,” Warren said. “And that’s what we’re trying to spread here and let everyone have a voice.”
The production of Charlie Blue takes place on Sunday, December 12 at 2 p.m. at the Ritz Theater in Sanford. Tickets are still available online.
For more information on Chance 2 Dance, tap here.