(WSYR-TV) — Tony Dovolani taught a lot of celebrities during 20 seasons on Dancing with the Stars. And more importantly, he helped to teach America along the way.
“Now, when people find out you can dance, they are so quick to tell you what you can do better! They’ll talk to you about the Fox Trot, the Paso Doble, and they have strong opinions about it, which is really kind of fun,” said Dovolani.
Dovolani has inspired students for years during visits to the Fred Astaire Dance Studios in Fayetteville. But, his latest visit gave him inspiration.
Natasha Kolesova suffered a spinal injury in a car accident. She took up wheelchair dancing after Paralympic team officials reached out in her native Ukraine.
When Kolesova was first invited to try dancing, she refused. She thought it was just another way to make her feel inferior. She soon found out that it did anything but that.
“It gave me a sense of identity,” said Kolesova. “An opportunity to embrace my disability, to love the person I am and to function independently and to be helpful of myself and to the society.”
After years of rehabilitation and training, Natasha entered competition, on both the national and international levels. She set that all aside when she started graduate work at Syracuse University.
But, the experience helped guide her career choices. She is pursuing a doctorate in disability rights, hoping to teach future educators about advocacy and inclusivity.
Everyone can be included in any activity if people around understand the uniqueness of these individuals and if they can respect and be responsive to the person’s individual needs. It’s very important to have empathy and to have respect.Natasha Kolesova
Dovolani is excited that the Fred Astaire Studios are expanding their work with wheelchair athletes, which he thinks will help everyone.
“You are pushing yourself to think beyond the possibilities, that dancing is from everyone,” said Dovolani.
The Fred Astaire Studios in Fayetteville is building its programming for students in wheelchairs and people of all abilities. You can get more information by calling 315-637-3718.
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