by Britteny McNamara from Wicked Local Walpole:
On stage, Allie Iannoni gets her wings. Dancing tap and jazz, Iannoni’s eyes light up, she becomes confident, and her differences float away.
The fact that Iannoni has Down’s Syndrome doesn’t matter, all that matters is that she hits her mark, which she always does.
Iannoni has danced at K and M Studios in Norwood for 10 years now, and with her 21st birthday approaching next month she has recently aged out of the program. At her final recital last Saturday, Allie, of Walpole, said she was happy to perform with her friends, but sad to see the end of an era.
Up on the Westwood High School stage, Iannoni performed three numbers, one tap, one jazz and a final senior dance. Her father Joseph Iannoni said the senior dance was her best performance yet.
"I really loved to dance," Iannoni said. "I like being on stage, I like when people clap for me."
The final performance was a series of three recitals, one in the morning, one in the afternoon and one at night. With her dad in the audience for all three, Iannoni said she had a lot of fun.
"She’s very good," he said. "She’s happy. It’s nice to see her confident."
Confidence is something Iannoni earns on stage. While not her everyday state, her father said, Iannoni becomes a new person in front of a crowd.
"She’s not that confident in her speech, but she is when she’s dancing," her father said.
Iannoni said she does not get nervous before performing, laughing at the suggestion. She said she hopes to keep dancing in the future.
"I like to dance because I am a good dancer," Iannoni said. "I like to be with my girlfriends."
Family friend Diane Gulzinski said watching Iannoni’s passion for dance blossom over the years has been rewarding. In addition to her practices at the studio, Gulzinski said Iannoni would dance in her room before heading to the studio, where she would then dance for as long as possible.
"It’s a lot of self expression," Gulzinski said of Iannoni’s dancing.
Melissa Flaherty, one of Iannoni’s dance teachers, said her performances are remarkable, something that will be missed.
"She’s been phenomenal," Flaherty said. "It really has been amazing having her part of this dance studio."
While the stage brings her poise, Flaherty said dance has helped Iannoni grow and change throughout the years.
"When she first started she was more shy, didn’t talk too much," Flaherty said. "Over the years, she’s really come out of her shell. She formed a really nice bond with everyone, including myself and Kelli [Daley, fellow coach], we are going to really miss her."
Iannoni joined K and M 10 years ago after being rejected by other studios because she has Down’s Syndrome. When her mother called, Flaherty immediately accepted Iannoni into the program, she said. Looking back, Flaherty said it was a great decision.
On stage, Joeseph Iannoni said his daughter is the same as all the other girls, a place where she flourishes. Flaherty said Iannoni is a great dancer, and a great person."In all these years," Flaherty said, "she hasn’t missed a beat."