Former Competitive Swimmer Cheryl Angelelli Performs Wheelchair Dance In Michigan

By Kris Kelly, CBS 62/CW50 Community Affairs Mgr.

I love to dance!  There’s nothing quite like losing yourself in the flow of music and movement – or watching others who are doing the same.

That’s why Cheryl Angelelli’s story captured my attention.  The Clinton Township resident broke her neck in a swimming accident at the age of 14 that left her paralyzed.  Angelelli didn’t let that stop her, though.  She finished college, built a career in media, and became a competitive swimmer in the Paralympics.  She won bronze and silver medals, is a seven-time world champion, and still holds 15 American records and two world records.

“When I retired from competitive swimming, it left this huge void in my life. Nothing gave me the same excitement or adrenaline rush swimming did until I started wheelchair ballroom dancing.”

Wheelchair dance instructor Sergio Sanchez and Student Cheryl Angelelli

Wheelchair dance instructor Sergio Sanchez and Student Cheryl Angelelli

I had never heard of wheelchair dancing before.  I had no idea that it was an international competitive sport and has been part of the Paralympics since 1998.  It hasn’t gained popularity in Michigan yet, but Angelelli intends to change that.  She has been training to perform as a wheelchair dancer since October 2014, but she is also creating opportunities for other individuals in wheelchairs to learn to ballroom dance.

“I know how much joy dancing has brought me, and I want to share it with other people and help them experience the freedom of movement.”

Angelelli received a grant from the Rehabilitation Institute of Michigan Foundation to subsidize a wheelchair dance workshop at Fred Astaire Dance Studio (FADS), which will take place on Saturday, May 2nd, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. for a maximum of 15 individuals in wheelchairs. (Partners are not necessary.)

The workshop will be hands-on and experiential, says Evan Mountain, FADS owner with his wife Lada. From there, the grant will enable other wheelchair dance group lessons, he says, as group lessons provide an affordable way to learn to dance.

Angelelli’s instructor at FADS is Sergio Sanchez, a native of Quito, Ecuador who has been dancing since he was 14, competed ballroom around the world, and wrote his master’s thesis on wheelchair dance.

According to Sanchez, it’s not about swinging the wheelchair around the dance floor. It’s an integrated partnership between him and Angelelli, involving trust, choreography and a lot of core strength.

It’s an incredibly beautiful partnership too.

Event Details:
Saturday, May 2, 2015
11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Fred Astaire Dance Studio Wheelchair Dance Workshop
2172 Franklin Road, Bloomfield Hills, MI 48302
limited to 15 participants (partners are not necessary)

For More Information:
http://www.fredastaire.com/bloomfield-hills/
248-454-1715.

Special thanks to Lynne Golodner for sharing this wonderful story!

Kris Kelly is the Community Affairs Manager for CBS 62 and CW50.  She’s interested in  stories about people and community organizations making a difference in the Metro Detroit area.

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