. - As a ballroom dancer, I have always said, if you have a good partner, you can dance with your eyes closed. Well I found one woman who
proves that theory because she is blind. She takes lessons at a Studio called Viva Dance in Cleveland.
It's why they're Local and We're Loving it.
Melanie Swider always loved dancing. She just never imagined that if she wanted to do it, she'd have to do it without her sight, which
she started losing in her 20's due to Diabetes.
"I barely see you, I have no sight in the right eye. I see only out of the top of my left eye. But what I see is not normal. I guess
I would describe it as looking like a faded photograph," Melanie says.
A faded photograph that, with the guidance of instructor Eddie Perez at Viva Dance in Cleveland, has been become a bit clearer for Melanie.
"He took my hand and he looked at me and he said, 'you can do it, I'll teach you Do Argentine Tango. You're always in hold position, so you can do it.' So I started with that," she says.
Melanie not only had the courage to dance again, but after two years, actually began competing against non-disabled dancers.
"I don't advertise it to the judges. I mean if they happen to see me walk in the room with my cane, they do. But otherwise I don't expect
any break in the point system," Melanie explains.
This is not the first time Eddie has successfully worked with a disabled student, including one woman in her 80's.
"She had her back fused in 3 places. The doctors told her that she wouldn't be able to walk anymore, or dance," Eddie says.
But seven years later, that student was on the dance floor again. It's successes like these that makes "Eddie" want to do a dance.
"My satisfaction comes when I see her dance with other people. People get to dance with her and turn her and she's smiling," he explains.
Co-owner Rebecca Sweet says it's also a testament to the fact anyone can dance...especially if the only thing holding you back is fear.
"They fall in love with the dancing, the music, the people that they meet here," she says.
And if your concern is not having a partner, you can get rid of that excuse too, judging by the number of people flying solo at the
studio's grand opening party last March.
At Viva Dance they teach everything from Salsa to Swing. And they cater to everyone from couples preparing for their wedding to kids
who just want to express their creativity.
But there are other benefits according to Rebecca.
"They find that they lose weight, their blood pressure goes down, they find they're not as stressed," she says.
They also bring in celebrities to teach classes, like Louis Van Amstel from Dancing with the Stars whom I was lucky enough to dance
with when he came in April.
"From New York to LA to all over the world. They hang out with us, teach our students, and love to be a part of the dance community
here in Cleveland," Rebecca explains.
Melanie says learning to dance was on her bucket list, and if it didn't work, she wouldn't have lost anything by trying.
"I kept thinking I can do that. If somebody taught me, I could do that. I just wanted to try it. I just love it. I love it," she says
Viva dance. It's Local. And We're Loving It.
Now in the interest of full disclosure, I have been working with both Eddie and Rebecca for close to 8 years and the experience has
been incredible. Dancing really can change your life.