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The Lake News Online
  • Down syndrome dancer breaks the mold

  • Bre'Aunta Onarheim is 13 years old. She loves to dance around her bedroom and sing "Let it go" at the top of her lungs. She will enter eighth grade at Camdenton Middle School this fall. She has been taking dance lessons — hip-hop, jazz and ballet — for three years. The girl commonly known as 'Bre-Bre' may seem like your average teen. She isn't. She's forging a way for other teens like herself daily.
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  • Bre'Aunta Onarheim is 13 years old. She loves to dance around her bedroom and sing "Let it go" at the top of her lungs. She will enter eighth grade at Camdenton Middle School this fall. She has been taking dance lessons — hip-hop, jazz and ballet — for three years. The girl commonly known as 'Bre-Bre' may seem like your average teen. She isn't. She's forging a way for other teens like herself daily.
    Bre-Bre has Down syndrome, but that doesn’t stand in the way of her passion for dance. According to her mother Nancy, Bre-Bre has always had music in her bones.
    "She loves music," Nancy said. "Every song that comes on, she starts dancing."
    Bre-Bre has four other sisters that dance with her at Xanadu Dance Studio in Camdenton. Instructor Sue Hammond welcomed Bre-Bre with open arms.
    After seeing many special needs children sitting on the sidelines watching others dance or be involved in activities, Hammond wanted to make a change.
    "I want them to be up on stage," Hammond said. "I want them to shine too."
    Both Nancy and Hammond have seen how dance and the exposure to music have helped Bre-Bre since she began her journey at Xanadu three years ago.
    "It has made her more outgoing," Nancy said.
    She added that the exercise has helped with her muscle tone.
    Bre-Bre is always paying attention even if she does not make it to the dance floor.
    "Even if she doesn't come out to the floor, she is listening and watching," Hammond said.
    Bre-Bre is in a mainstream dance class with 14 girls. Hammond's dream is to offer a class to special needs students in the Camdenton R-III School District in place of their physical education class.
    "All the kids in her class embrace Bre-Bre," Nancy said.
    She has come a long way from barely touching the dance floor when she started three years ago. Recently, she was the opening act for Clay Cooper at his show in Branson. Xanadu was asked to perform and Hammond made sure that Bre-Bre was the first one on stage.
    As the curtain opened, the audience watched Bre-Bre, Hammond and Hammond's daughter walk out on stage hand in hand. As music began to play, Bre-Bre danced around the stage without a care in the world. Periodically, she would glance at Hammond who was still by her side.
    Audience members cheered as the lyrics and melody of "Let it Go" echoed throughout the theater. No one could take their eyes off the precious angel on stage. When the dance was done, audience members jumped to their feet and gave Bre-Bre a standing ovation.
    Page 2 of 2 - Nancy hopes that other families watching Bre-Bre will take notice and will see that no matter the challenge, children can do whatever they set their mind on.
    "I hope she is an advocate for all the other children," Nancy said. "Push them out with everyone else. They can do it."
    Bre-Bre was adopted when she was a year old. Nancy has twelve children; ten are adopted.
    Nancy's message is simple.
    "Anybody can do it," she said.

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