The Purple Tutu: Dancing with Down Syndrome

The Purple Tutu: Dancing with Down Syndrome
Holland McDowell with one of her dance students

Down syndrome is a chromosomal condition that effects one 1 of every 691 babies born in the United States. According to the National Down Syndrome Association, those that suffer from the condition have an increased risk for medical conditions such as congenital heart defects, respiratory and hearing problems, Alzheimer’s disease, childhood leukemia, and thyroid conditions. Down  syndrome does not discriminate based on race or gender, and those that have the condition commonly have weak muscles, but are extremely flexible.

This is where senior Holland McDowell steps in. In her sophomore year, she founded The Purple Tutu, a ballet class for children with Down syndrome. Here’s what she had to say about her organization:

What is the Purple Tutu?

  • My organization that brings ballet to children with Down syndrome.

What inspired you to start The Purple Tutu?

  • I’m a dancer, and I also love science and teaching. I started teaching at the Meeting Street Academy while I was taking AP Bio with Mrs. Eicher. I learned about those with the condition and how they’re very flexible, but don’t have a lot of core strength. Ballet seemed like a great way for them to execute their flexibility, while helping them build their core strength.

How does ballet help your students?

  • It helps them build their core strength. When the students first came in they couldn’t jump or stand on their toes. We do activities like “jump the river” where they have to jump over a piece of fabric to help them with this. Now, they can jump pretty far, though they still have a little trouble with standing on their toes!

What will happen with The Purple Tutu while you’re in college?

  • I’d like to leave it with someone to continue on with here, but also expand The Purple Tutu off to wherever I go to school.

    Holland McDowell along with other volunteers teaching a class