A Passion for Dance

 

DESPITE HAVING SOME CHALLENGES, OLIVIA MILLER AND KATHERINE REEDY SEIZE EACH DAY WHILE ACCOMPLISHING THEIR DANCE GOALS

 
photo by: ALAMOND PHOTOGRAPHY

photo by: ALAMOND PHOTOGRAPHY

Pirouette. Gran Jeté. Press leap. Most seasoned dance students can complete these movements effortlessly; their bodies shaping quickly as their minds comprehend the sequence. However, for Olivia Miller and Katherine Reedy, execution of these dance steps requires more. It calls for focus, perseverance and willpower. Olivia and Katherine require extra time for their bodies to process their brains’ messages due to cerebral palsy. Yet, through determination and passion, these girls radiate their love of dance at the All Rhythm Dance Alley (ARDA) in Nash, Texas.

When Olivia Miller was a baby and diagnosed with cerebral palsy, her physician told her parents that they needed to obtain a wheelchair for her. “Doctors told me she wouldn’t ever walk,” her mother, Tiffany Miller, recalls. However, Olivia defied medical expectations. “I told myself anything with God is possible, so I pray for my daughter daily, with her condition. To see how much she has grown into a young lady is amazing,” Tiffany states. “She is running, jumping, dancing. She is a social butterfly who loves to see people happy,” says Olivia’s grandmother, Vivian Miller.

Olivia, age 13, completed her ninth year of dance at ARDA this spring. Tiffany learned about ARDA through an advertisement in Four States Living Magazine. At ARDA, Olivia takes the Rising Star class, where she learns ballet, jazz, tap and hip hop. She enjoys dancing with other students who share her same passion. Her family loves everything about ARDA and about Olivia taking classes at the school. They are happy to see how much joy Olivia’s dancing brings others. “Each time I watch her dance, it brings tears to my eyes, knowing how far she has come,” remarks Sandra Miller, Olivia’s aunt.

Katherine Reedy is 9 years old and has completed her sixth year of dance. In addition to cerebral palsy, Katherine was also born with Turner’s syndrome, a chromosomal condition that affects female development. “Katherine was born prematurely weighing only 1 lb. and 15 ozs., and spent 54 days in the NICU at Arkansas Children’s,” her mother, Tricia Reedy, explains. “When I finally held her then as a newborn, I could not have imagined the miracle that I would live with every day.” Katherine’s conditions have not stopped her from enjoying children’s activities. She takes piano and voice lessons at Keys4Kidz in Nash, and swims, reads and watches Disney shows. However, it is dance for which Katherine has a true passion.

Both Olivia and Katherine enjoy dancing and performing during All Rhythm Dance Alley’s dance recital.

Both Olivia and Katherine enjoy dancing and performing during All Rhythm Dance Alley’s dance recital.

Katherine began taking dance with her older sister, Harley, from Jan Wade in Winthrop, Arkansas. “When we moved back to Texarkana, I began to make calls to find out who would be willing to teach a child with Katherine’s challenges. I am sure I found the studio by Google, but I am certain that God led me to Angie Walker and All Rhythm Dance Alley,” Tricia states. “When I first spoke with Angie there was absolutely no hesitation regarding teaching Katherine.” She began taking beginner ballet, tap and tumbling in 2015, and her love for dance blossomed. Inspired by assistant dance teacher, Rylee Burden, Katherine set a goal to start clogging and become an Elite dancer on the competition team, just like Rylee. Katherine underwent serial casting for her legs to gain strength and flexibility. In 2017, Katherine accomplished both of her goals—she began clogging class and she began her first year as an Elite dancer.

This past year, Katherine took jazz, ballet, clogging, Rising Star-Jazz, hip hop, lyrical, a solo class and danced with the Elite team at recital. Her favorite class is clogging. Katherine also performed a duet with dancer Heather Jaynes at competition, which tells the story of how Katherine approaches dance. According to Tricia, when Katherine dances, she doesn’t see her imperfections, she sees herself just like Heather.

“Dance has done things for Katherine that we could never have imagined. She has become a confident and well-spoken young lady,” Tricia comments. “The friendships she has made through dance are invaluable to her and to us, to have her peers accept and support her means a lot to me as a mom. She has gained many role models in the assistants and instructors from ARDA. If she continues to grow up like these young ladies and women who are strong, confident, poised and talented, then we will be truly blessed.” Tiffany concurs. “I am honored to say thank you to everyone who has taken the time and patience to work with Olivia in dance. Her physical abilities have grown in dance from the time she started. I am truly blessed to be Olivia’s mom.”

During the 2018-2019 competition season, Katherine performed a duet with Heather Jaynes to “Reflection” by Christina Aguilera. The meaning of the dance is that Katherine is looking at her reflection, which is actually Heather. This song was so sentimental to Katherine and her family because this is exactly what Katherine sees when she dances: no challenges or differences. The girls competed in the Teen Category and won Top 10 finishes including a first overall and special judges award.

During the 2018-2019 competition season, Katherine performed a duet with Heather Jaynes to “Reflection” by Christina Aguilera. The meaning of the dance is that Katherine is looking at her reflection, which is actually Heather. This song was so sentimental to Katherine and her family because this is exactly what Katherine sees when she dances: no challenges or differences. The girls competed in the Teen Category and won Top 10 finishes including a first overall and special judges award.

Indeed, Olivia and Katherine have been lifted up by the enthusiasm and support of the studio’s owner and director, Angie Walker, and her dance instructors. However, Angie and her instructors have been blessed themselves. As Angie avers, “Both Olivia and a wonderful and contagious inspiration to all of their fellow students! They put their whole heart into every step, and shine bright both on and off the stage with their infectious smiles and profound accomplishments. It is an HONOR to share the art of dance with these two talented girls. I’m equally grateful for the valuable lessons they teach in return.”

Olivia and Katherine will continue dancing this fall at ARDA. Olivia will also start 7th grade at Pleasant Grove Middle School, where she will be a member of the cheer team. She is looking forward to it, reports Tiffany. In addition to dance, Olivia enjoys singing, riding horses at Runnin WJ Ranch, watching musicals and spending time with her family. Attending church is important to her. “She loves listening to the word of God and giving Him the highest praise while encouraging others to do the same,” states Vivian.

Katherine will begin 4th grade at Red Lick Elementary School, and she looks forward to football season and mini- cheer so that she can cheer for the Hooks Hornets, according to Tricia. Like Olivia, Katherine is active in her church— Victory City Baptist Church—and enjoys learning about Jesus.

A “social butterfly,” Olivia has defied the odds and enjoys bringing smiles to others she meets. (Photo by Stan D. Shavers, Starlight Photography)

A “social butterfly,” Olivia has defied the odds and enjoys bringing smiles to others she meets. (Photo by Stan D. Shavers, Starlight Photography)

Katherine and Olivia have challenges, but they seize each day and make the most of it. ARDA has welcomed these girls and given them the opportunity to express themselves physically, mentally and emotionally, developing skills they can use for the rest of their lives. As Tricia Reedy says, “It is what it is. There will always be good days and bad days, and ups and downs, and that just is what it is. Katherine will always have Cerebral Palsy and Turner’s syndrome. What we will do is make the best of every moment, every triumph and every victory because it is what it is.” All Rhythm Dance Alley will continue to bring joy to Olivia and Katherine, as they will bring joy to their dance family, their own families and all who are blessed to watch two beautiful girls dance their hearts out.