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Class gives children with special needs a "Chance to Dance"

Jenna Lyon, 21, started "Chance to Dance" five years ago when she was a student at Scott County High School


LEXINGTON-- Jenna Lyon doesn't want her Sunday dance class to be different from any other she teaches... but it is.

It's made up of students who may not be expected to succeed; who are often defined by what they can't do. But through dance, Jenna helps them find what they can do and it's quite a lot.

" I don't make it any easier," she said. "I don't try to change things because I don't think they're capable of doing something. They're really capable of doing anything. It just takes more time, more breaking things down, but they're truly amazing and I love working with them."

Jenna, a University of Kentucky senior, started the Chance to Dance classes five years ago in Scott County when she was still in high school after seeing a group of special needs students dance in Louisville. At first she had four students. Now she has 20. She and her team of helpers do it all for free.

"Because a lot of our students' parents have extra expenses of medical bills and therapies and different things and I didn't want the cost keep anyone from participating," she said.

Sara Robeson of Georgetown says the classes give her son Will confidence he never had before.

"He never misses a class and he talks about it all week," Robeson said. "It's his favorite activity."

You hear the same thing from parent after parent.

Karen Juett said when her daughter Anna first started dancing, she would sit down and watch the other students. "But now she gets up there and has big movements. Her confidence has grown."

Student Lucy Harding says she can't imagine her life without these classes. "Having a place I can come and just be myself and just be who I am without being put own or criticized for what I do wrong is amazing."

So what's the real test of confidence for any dance student?

A recital.

Excitement was in the air recently as they waited backstage for their moment to shine. They were part of a recital at Transylvania University by students from Barbara Ann's School of Dance.

When "Chance to Dance" takes the stage, the routine is important, of course, but people pay more attention to the smiles than the steps.

"I would like to know what the world would be like if we all had the same outlook on life and love for life that my students do," said Lyon, known as "Miss Jenna" to her students.

So what can special needs students do? For one thing, they can use their footwork to bring a crowd to its feet. The group received a standing ovation after performing a graceful ballet piece on stage.

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Right now, "Chance to Dance" has a waiting list. Upon graduation from UK, Jenna Lyon would like to train more instructors and expand the program to other area dance studios. Her mother, sister, boyfriend and a lot of other friends and former students help her with the program, all on a volunteer basis.

At the end of dance class, students get a chance to unwind with "The Chicken Dance"

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