HUDSON — Most of their after-school hours are spent in the dance studio preparing for competition. 

Relentlessly perfecting their technique and practicing routines, dance is important to these 31 girls at Kibler Dance Academy, 180 W. Streetsboro Street.  But on Feb. 3, the academy’s competition team partnered with Youth Challenge to prove just how significant dance can be in everyone’s lives, with a “Day of Dance.” 

Youth Challenge brings together young people with physical disabilities and teen volunteers who inspire each other through adapted sports, recreation and social growth activities. They offer more than 325 activities year-round for their participants with the goal of adapting all sports to fit the needs of children with physical disabilities. 

KDA wanted the children at Youth Challenge to experience a real dance competition, complete with choreography, judges, awards and, of course, tons of fun. Four teams comprising KDA dancers and Youth Challenge participants and their volunteers went head-to-head in a dance battle. Each team brought fierce competition, but in the end, only one team prevailed. 

“It was important for us to give our participants an experience as close to a real dance competition as we could get,” said Mackenzie Vecchio, program manager for YC. The day began with a performance by the KDA dancers.

Then, the teams broke off to spend time creating a team name, making team posters and flags, learning their choreography and practicing their moves. 

Finally, it was time for the competition. Each group performed as the judges critiqued showmanship, knowledge of routine, synchronization and overall performance. The competition ended with all four groups uniting in a huge finale dance. 

“Today was a great sample of what being on a dance team and in an actual dance competition would be like for our YC participants. It gave them the opportunity to feel like dancers,” said Laurel Sweet, YC’s volunteer coordinator. 

“It’s easy to take for granted how natural dance seems to be, but it’s not easy or natural for kids in wheelchairs or kids with limited mobility,” added Melissa Thurstone, YC’s community development manager. “Today these kids got to experience the joy of dance. We are so impressed with how naturally the KDA dancers bonded with the YC participants.” 

Jennifer Kibler, KDA’s studio manager, said she is proud of all the dancers, as they led every aspect of the day.

“They developed the choreography, taught their team the routine, led team building activities, served lunch. It was such a rewarding experience for all the kids involved whether they be associated with YC or KDA,” she said. “Everyone in the room could feel the comaraderie. It was truly an experience I will never forget – and one that will lead to a future partnership with Youth Challenge.”