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Meet Mandy Mykitta of Dare to Dance

Today we’d like to introduce you to Mandy Mykitta.

Mandy, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Six years ago, I was freshly out of school, I had just moved to a brand new city in Pennsylvania, and I was working full-time in corporate America. I started taking ballroom dance lessons as a way to meet new people. Ballroom dancing quickly became a very large part of my life. The more I learned, the more I loved it! Eventually, I started a part-time job teaching ballroom dance in the evenings, and I became involved with an organization focused on teaching people with disabilities how to dance. After moving to California two years ago, I knew I wanted to work with the disabled community again. I researched nonprofits and charitable organizations, and I learned how to start one myself here on the West Coast.

Dare to Dance was officially created last year, in August of 2016 with the purpose of enriching the lives of individuals with physical, cognitive, or emotional disabilities through ballroom dancing. Dancing can have incredible benefits, and I strongly believe that it can be extremely conducive to many types of rehabilitation/recovery. It keeps people active. It can be done to all different types of music, making it an activity that anyone can enjoy, no matter what their individual preferences are. And it is fun! I might be slightly biased, but it is very difficult to dance without a smile. As the President/CEO of Dare to Dance, I am now teaching special needs ballroom dance classes in several different cities throughout Southern California.

We plan to continue expanding, and we hope to open classes that are designed for people with other types of disabilities, such as amputations, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, etc. I love teaching and running the daily operations of this organization, and I am excited to see where it takes me.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Getting to where I am today has definitely come with some challenges along the way. When I moved to California two years ago, I didn’t know anyone. I knew that I wanted to teach dance, and I knew I wanted to work with the disabled community, but I had no idea where to start. The biggest challenge that I faced was building a network of connections and support in the local community of Southern California. I knew I would not be able to accomplish what I wanted to do on my own. I would not have been able to do this without IT help while building Dare to Dance’s website. My classes would not have been possible without all of the volunteers who have donated countless hours of their time in order to make each and every class special for our students. Dare to Dance would not be here today if it were not for the generous donors who have made monetary contributions to our cause. My largest challenge throughout this entire process has been establishing a network of support. But that network is constantly growing. I found computer geniuses who contributed technical expertise and helped Dare to Dance create an online presence. Our volunteer team is continually growing and expanding. More and more people are getting excited about what we are doing, and that is what makes anything successful! I am so excited for everything that I have learned throughout this process so far, but I think the biggest thing challenge for me was to create an organization that I knew I couldn’t run entirely on my own. I had to rely on other people, which I am not always very good at doing. But they came through, and they continue to come through, making an impact on people’s lives, one dance at a time!

We’d love to hear more about your business.
At Dare to Dance, our mission is to turn disabilities into dance abilities. The primary goal of our programs is to provide life-enrichment for individuals living with all types of disabilities, special needs, and degenerative diseases. Dancing has the potential to improve self-confidence, boost metabolism, increase energy, and stimulate cognitive function. We believe our classes are an incredible supplement for many types of rehabilitation and/or recovery. Our programs can complement many physical therapy regimens, and we facilitate an inspiring, encouraging, community atmosphere for people to participate in an amazing activity! Our objective is to create a community where anyone and everyone is included, regardless of physical or cognitive limitations.

Our goal is to support the disabled population of Southern California and to raise awareness of the incredible, unexpected things that these people are capable of accomplishing. Our mission is to create a place where our students can shine more than anyone thought possible. Exposure to this new, engaging activity offers social interaction, as well as physical and mental stimulation. Our desire is to instill a feeling of acceptance, accomplishment, and, most of all, enjoyment, in each of our special students. Our goal and expectation is to provide opportunities for our students to interact with other students and staff/volunteers, enhancing and developing their social skills. In addition, our classes are engaging, both physically and mentally, which promotes an active, healthy lifestyle and also facilitates learning. Dare to Dance expects to influence the lives of our students through the combination of movement and music.

There have been countless studies and research programs dedicated to documenting the positive impact of music therapy for various conditions and handicaps. Nearly everyone has some musical style, genre, or artist that they love, and the expected outcome of Dare to Dance’s programs is the translation of that music into something that is fun, physical, social, and life-changing.

What were you like growing up?
As I was growing up, I was an incredibly shy child. I loved bike-riding, rollerblading, and building forts, but I also loved playing with my dolls and stuffed animals. I played on a T-ball team with some friends, and I could spend hours on end with my nose buried in a book. I was extremely introverted for most of my life, and it was actually dancing that brought me out of my shell. Most of my lifelong friends and family members were surprised when the timid, quiet girl that they knew, became an animated, excited, boisterous teacher talking in front of classrooms full of students.

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