Everyone on the dance floor: Former Ms. Wheelchair Wisconsin aims to make dancing accessible to all

MADISON, Wis. — Dance is a creative way for anyone to convey their emotions, feelings, thoughts, and experiences. Dance can connect people together or help us discover something inside ourselves.

Dancing can tell a story.

This is Martha Siravo’s story.

At 18 years old, she was a passenger in a car traveling in snowy conditions. They got into an accident. Martha sustained a spinal cord injury and has been in a wheelchair ever since. That was 20 years ago.

Now, this former Ms. Wheelchair Wisconsin is kicking her heels in her wheels on the dance floor at Fred Astaire Dance Studios – Brookfield. She’s taking ballroom dancing lessons.

A program called Dance Mobility, co-founded by four-time Paralympic medalist and World Record holder in swimming Cheryl Angelelli, found its first home in Brookfield. The mission is to create awareness and develop wheelchair ballroom dancing a sport and recreational activity across the country.

During the pandemic, this gave Martha something to do and she got bit by the dancing bug! Every week, she drives the 70+ miles there and back to learn more choreography for routines she’s now performing in showcases and competitions — the most notable being the nation’s first-ever Wheelchair Dance Competition in Michigan.

Now she wants others who thought it IMPOSSIBLE to “dance on air” to know just how POSSIBLE this is.

She created “Wheels & Heels,” an organization that aims to get wheelchair dance instruction in more studios because currently, Brookfield is the only city in Wisconsin that offers this opportunity.

Martha hopes to start in Madison, along with fundraising money to help dancers pay for lessons because cost can be a barrier.

To learn more about Wheels & Heels and the Dance Mobility program, contact Martha Siravo at wheelsandheels4wi@gmail.com.