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Young girls doing ballet

Tour de Force helps children with disabilities become ballet dancers

A little over two years ago, the idea began percolating to take some of the children with physical disabilities we treat here at Children’s Wisconsin and pair them with dancers from Milwaukee Ballet.

The result is Tour de Force, a program that has given many kids with disabilities an opportunity to take a ballet class at a ballet studio, just as a normally developing child would. With newfound confidence, these young ballet dancers are doing things many thought they would never be able to do.

The healing power of dance

Watch the video above to see how our collaboration with Milwaukee Ballet is bringing the beauty of ballet into the lives of children. Tour de Force, which takes its name from the ballet term for an arresting, vital step, was the subject of a special segment that recently aired on Milwaukee Public Television.

We recently had the pleasure of attending a special prescreening of the segment with some of the dancers who are featured in it. It was so great to see their facial expressions, knowing how proud they were of their accomplishments, and that this program has helped change their lives for the better.

The role of our physical and occupational therapists

Each child in Tour de Force has the assistance of a Children’s Wisconsin therapist (focusing in physical or occupational therapy) and a dancer from Milwaukee Ballet. Over a five-week session, they learn how to stretch, do specialized ballet maneuvers, and then attend a performance of Milwaukee Ballet to see the moves they learned put into action.

It is our role as therapists to make sure the children are exercising in a way that’s appropriate to their abilities and that maximizes the physical benefits of the activities.

In addition to helping our little ballerinas make physical and mental progress, we’re trying to instill in them a love of dance and the arts. They also forge bonds with their dance instructors that go well beyond the studio. The response has been tremendous, and our hope is to see Tour de Force grow so we can help even more kids reach greater heights.