This article was originally published in the winter 2024 issue of the Ivy Indy magazine.
Danielle Lewis, a former professional dancer and now a residential home care supervisor for adults with intellectual disabilities, saw an opportunity to bring joy into the lives of her clients. When they learned of her previous career, their eyes lit up with excitement, Lewis said. She relentlessly researched dance studios in Indianapolis that offered classes tailored to adults and children with intellectual disabilities. Unfortunately, she kept coming up short.
“It just wasn’t fair. They should be afforded the same opportunities to dance just like anybody else,” Lewis said.
Lewis decided to put her dancing shoes back on and provide dance lessons for her clients and others in the community with intellectual disabilities who wanted to learn. She adapted her former teaching styles to suit her clients’ attention and learning capabilities. She even developed a nonprofit business plan and secured studio space through Indy Parks twice a week for the dance classes, which were completely free.
Then March 2020 came. Although the COVID-19 pandemic caused some setbacks, Lewis continued to pursue her new-found passion for inclusive dance instruction and enrolled in Ivy Tech’s Garatoni School of Entrepreneurship and Innovation. With the help of the entrepreneurship program, Lewis was able to turn her passion into a for-profit business called Dannie’s Dance.
“Such great things have happened since then,” Lewis said. “My business would not be where it is today without the Ivy Tech Indianapolis entrepreneurship program.”
Lewis now does private in-house dance lessons and volunteers her talents at nearby schools and institutions while she works toward securing studio space again. She believes that everyone deserves a safe space to express themselves and wants to provide that for her clients, especially people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. “I want them to learn what self-expression can mean to them because dance does many different things to different people. But one thing I know for sure is it helps them, and it's therapeutic,” Lewis said.
Thanks to her perseverance and the support of the entrepreneurship program, Lewis is providing this community the opportunity to dance just as she would anyone else.
“This community deserves to be seen and heard. I believe that with the right mindset and patience, you can achieve anything. I strive to be a catalyst of change for them because they deserve the same opportunities to dance just like anyone else.”
– Danielle Lewis, founder, Dannie's Dance
About Ivy Tech Community College
Ivy Tech Community College is Indiana's largest public postsecondary institution and the nation's largest singly accredited statewide community college system, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Ivy Tech has campuses throughout Indiana and also serves thousands of students annually online. It serves as the state's engine of workforce development, offering associate degrees, long- and short-term certificate programs, industry certifications, and training that aligns with the needs of the community. The College provides a seamless transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana, as well as out of state, for a more affordable route to a bachelor's degree.