O.C. Nonprofit Down for Dance Expands Its Reach

Co-founder Annie Griffith discusses how the nonprofit dance program expanded its reach from O.C. and Long Beach to the Down syndrome community nationwide.
Photograph by Emily J. Davis

What is Down for Dance?
It’s a dance program for individuals with Down syndrome, though we are definitely open to other abilities. We created it to offer high-quality dance programming to this population that we felt was really lacking.

What inspired you to start the group?
My brother has Down syndrome, so I feel super connected to that population. I went to school for business and marketing, so I handle that side of the organization, and (co-founder) Sari Anna Thomas, being a professional dancer, does the choreography and artistic direction. It just came together perfectly.

When did the organization launch?
We started in 2017 with 20 dancers and two classes and organically grew from there. Pre-pandemic, we had seven classes with 75 dancers across four locations (in O.C. and Long Beach).

Down for Dance photo courtesy of Annie Griffith

How were you affected by the pandemic?
Starting in June, we did an eight-week online summer program, which we advertised across the country. We held nine classes and had 87 dancers across 16 states. We got such awesome feedback. And for our 12-week fall session, we had 103 dancers across 20 states taking 10 classes, almost all of them being sold out.

What does the future look like?
Eventually, we’re going to have an in-studio and an online program. (The new students) are part of our Down for Dance family now.

What impact does this organization make?
Raising awareness about Down syndrome is so important. Those affected are capable of doing so much; they just need to be given the proper tools and support. In our program, not only are they dancing, they’re learning socialization, coordination, balance, and following instructions—all important life skills.

Find out more!
Head to downfordance.org.

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