SILVER SPRING — Chrissy Grube is like any other 10-year-old ballerina. She loves dancing and striking arabesque poses with her five-year-old sister, Amanda.
“I love to dance,” Chrissy declared. “I dance wherever I am.”
Chrissy and Amanda are Germantown residents but attend classes at Maryland Youth Ballet in Silver Spring. They are a part of the Music and Motion program that is offered at the ballet studio.
However, while the girls are treated like ballerinas, there is one thing that sets the girls in the Music and Motion classes apart from others: they all have disabilities.
Chrissy and Amanda suffer from a rare genetic disorder called giant axonal neuropathy (GAN), which results in loss of control in certain body functions, such as moving the arms and legs.
The last time Chrissy was able to walk was in February 2014. She has since lost all function in her legs.
“The effects of GAN are usually apparent when the children are toddlers and fail to develop motor skills normally,” said her father, Steve Grube
It turns out Chrissy was born with GAN, but it wasn’t until Sept. 11, 2014, that she was diagnosed with the disease.
Chrissy now needs a wheelchair to move from one place to another, but her disability doesn’t stop her from doing what she loves.
“The ability to again be a dancer, even if it is in an adaptive class, made Chrissy very happy,” Steve Grube said.
The program provides therapeutic ballet classes to dancers with physical disabilities, so for Chrissy and others like her, they are able to get up and move around when they usually aren’t able to.
“We don’t have classes per disability,” said Mary Henley, Music and Motion instructor. “It doesn’t matter, if you are willing and want to be here, then you’re in.”
Chrissy’s father emphasized that the Maryland Youth Ballet is the only facility in the area that puts forth the effort to let disabled kids lead rich lives through dance.
Chrissy and Amanda travel more than an hour every Saturday to participate in Henley’s classes.
Like any other ballet class, the girls start by stretching and going over choreography moves.
The ballet classes have allowed the girls to feel like every other kid in the world, Steve Grube said.
Music and Motion provides two dance sessions. The first class is offered to those disabled children that are able to walk mostly without assistance, while the second class is offered to those in wheelchairs or walkers, Henley said.
How can one practice ballet while in a wheelchair? Henley lets the girls dance in weight-bearing harnesses, which allows those dancers that are unable to use their legs to move freely.
“Imagine sitting all day, everyday,” Henley said. “Isn’t it wonderful when you finally get up?”
One of Chrissy’s favorite parts of ballet is being able to move her legs, she said.
“There is very little else in the week (that Chrissy) looks forward to than dancing,” Steve Grube said.
Chrissy isn’t the only one excited.
“This is the only thing I look forward to every week,” Henley said.
It’s a job where she can see long-term results working with people who need it, she said.
Chrissy and Amanda’s father agreed.
“Mary’s efforts (at Music and Motion) are legendary,” Steve Grube said.