Monday, May 21, 2012

dancer with Down syndrome wins gold at regional competition

Many people with Down syndrome are described as having a lack of coordination — but Royal Oak resident Ryan Dupuis, 24, proves that wrong.

Dupuis has been dancing for the past 18 years, and while attending Royal Oak High School, he was on the varsity cheerleading team.

He is the only student at Juliana’s Academy of Dance in Madison Heights with a disability. Yet, he was selected by the owner to be a co-instructor for a boys hip-hop class.

Last week, Dupuis competed at the senior division of Star Systems National Talent’s regional competition in Sterling Heights, against more than 70 adults, where he won a gold trophy for his solo dance of “Party Rock” by LMFAO. He is now qualified to compete in the national competition in Las Vegas at the end of June, and it was the first year Dupuis performed in a competition.

Juliana Pirpinelli, owner of Juliana’s Academy of Dance, said, “The audience went crazy over him.”

“It’s hard to get up in front of an audience. I used to throw up before I would perform. But he walks up on that stage like it’s nothing,” she said.

Dupuis’ mother Colleen said all the instructors and students at the dance studio “see him for his abilities, not his disabilities.”

“The young people here treat him like everybody else. There’s no difference, and he dances just like they do,” she said.
Dupuis has been a student at Juliana’s Academy of Dance for five years. He has performed a solo during every dance recital since he started, and he said he plans on dancing for at least six more years. Every year, he picks his own song. His first year, he dressed up like Michael Jackson and danced to “Thriller.”

His mother said Dupuis loves all kinds of music — from pop to country. He wanted to dance to “Sexy and I Know It” by LMFAO this year instead of “Party Rock,” but she said no.

“He can shake those hips a little too well,” she said, with a laugh. “He can make Shakira jealous.”

Dupuis has been a co-teacher for the 7- to 11-year-old hip-hop class, “The Junior Big Bang Attack,” with Corey Whitfield, 27, every Thursday night for the past year.

Whitfield said Dupuis helped choreograph the students’ competitive dance, which won first place in the group hip-hop division and third place in overall hip-hop.

“(Dupuis) is three years younger than me, but he dances better than me. I'm jealous,” Whitfield said. “This kid can dance circles around me, and I’ve been dancing for 22 years.”

Whitfield said he remembers when he first saw Dupuis dance three years ago. This was before he began teaching at the academy, but he already heard about Dupuis’ talent from others within the community.

“One of my students I trained at a gymnastic facility brought me to a recital. (The student) told me that Ryan was going to do a solo. Immediately, my mouth dropped to the floor. Not only that, but seeing him perform with a group of kids, as well, the way he kept up with the choreography more than some of the kids who have been dancing a longer time, it really puts dancing in perspective. This kid puts one hundred million percent in. He is amazing,” he said.

Colleen Dupuis said her son has had 22 surgeries in his life, recently had two major knee surgeries, was born with a heart defect and has a cyst on his hipbone. He also was diagnosed with Graves Disease, an autoimmune disorder that leads to overactivity of the thyroid glad. Yet Dupuis still keeps going.

“He’s overcome a lot of medical obstacles. You cannot keep him down. Sometimes he feels sore afterwards, but he doesn’t care,” she said. Pirpinelli, the dance academy owner, said, “I think it’s good for the kids in the class to learn that everybody has worth and everybody can offer something. Ryan has a lot of worth.”

1 comment:

  1. This is awesome! As a mother of a child with Downsyndrome, I am wondering what kind of a role the parents play that lead to this kind of success. Is it constant pushing to be the best you can be or is it just loving and allowing for opportunities to happen and grow?