When Sherry Summerville says she wants to give every child who comes to her dance studio a chance to shine, she means every single child, no matter the limitations.

by: PHOTO BY ELLEN SPITALERI - Sherry Summerville, center, works with two of her regular dance students, including her daughter, Sydney, 17, left, and Hailey Dickerson, 11.She has always wanted to do a free dance program for those with special needs and is finally going to realize her goal Jan. 20, when the new Miracle Movers program begins at her dance studio, Spotlight Performing Arts, on Southeast McLoughlin Boulevard in Oak Grove.

Registration is open now online at, but Summerville is hoping potential students and their parents will attend an open registration from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 14, so they can meet her and see the facility.

Miracle Movers is a special-needs dance team, for ages 8 and older, that will perform around the community. It is designed to help develop motor skills, teamwork and creative expression through dance. Participants will learn basic dance techniques, class etiquette, teamwork and spatial awareness.

“I am donating my time and my space. I don’t want people to have to pay to be involved. I want them to have the opportunity to shine without limitations, financial or otherwise,” Summerville said.

Young people with mental or physical disabilities are welcome, she added, saying she is following the same guidelines for participation that Special Olympics uses, although she is not at all affiliated with that organization.

Special-needs students will learn the basics of dance, just like the other students in her regular classes at Spotlight Performing Arts, but at their own pace. The end result will be a dance routine that Summerville will choreograph just for them.

Once sponsors are found to help with the cost of costumes for the group, the team will take the routine on the road, performing all over the area.

“We plan to feature them as our exhibition group in April at the Oregon Junior State Dance Championships,” held at Clackamas Community College, Summerville said.

“We want them to be in a place where they can appreciate other dancers, and other dancers can appreciate them.”

A studio of her own

Summerville said she has always had a love for working with special-needs students. Even when she was at the University of Portland, pursuing a degree in music education, one of her professors told her she should be working with special-needs children in fitness and dance.

But at first, Summerville took another route, performing professionally in leading roles in musicals like “A Chorus Line” and “Oklahoma,” and singing in a jazz trio called Euphoria. She also performed as a singer and dancer for Carnival Cruise Lines.

Eventually she returned to the area, and 12 years ago became the head coach for the Milwaukie High School Dance Team. In 2011 the MHS team took first place in its division at the OSAA State Dance Championships, and Summerville was named Coach of the Year, by the Dance and Drill Coaches Association.

That same year she took a brief hiatus to open her own dance studio, Spotlight Performing Arts, and then in 2012 became the head coach for the Rex Putnam High School Dance Team. In 2013, that dance team became the Oregon 5A dance champions.

Earlier, in 2004, Summerville and her sister, Debbie Kishpaugh, the dance coach at Pendleton High School, co-founded the Oregon Junior State Dance Team Championships.

“My sister and I realized there was no place for younger dance teams to compete, so we founded the junior group, for teams from first grade to middle school and junior high,” she said.

But they were not content to just provide a venue; soon the two came up with the idea to use the registration and entry fees to fund scholarships for the dancers competing at the OSAA championships. They must pay for the facility and judging, but every bit that is left over goes to the scholarships, Summerville said.

“Overall, we have donated $36,000 in scholarships. This is a way that young people can contribute to their future,” she added.

Team spirit

The overarching theme of Summerville’s studio is teamwork.

She knows the importance of celebrating every student’s individuality; about teaching students to appreciate what they can do, “but we all have to work together to function together in this world,” she said.

Her studio program has been a success in the area, she said, noting that “Spotlight has touched every dance team in North Clackamas. They are all state champions in their divisions.”

The idea for Miracle Movers came about in two ways; Summerville saw a program on TV about a special-needs cheerleading program, and then she helped with a student’s senior project, working with dance and special-needs kids in 2011.

“I oversaw the project, and I loved the joy that came out of the kids being a part of it. I could see them realizing they were just like other dancers. They were so proud of their accomplishments,” she said.

“They respond so well to fitness and dance. They just blossom when music comes on, and I want to facilitate their growth through music and dance,” Summerville said.

She added, “The arts are a beautiful way for kids to express themselves. They gain in confidence and presence. In this studio, we work together to accomplish a goal bigger than what any of us could do on our own.”

Miracle Movers

What: A special-needs dance team

When: Classes will be held from 4 to 5 p.m. Mondays, starting Jan. 20

Where: Spotlight Performing Arts, 16101 S.E. McLoughlin Blvd.

Details: To register for this free program, call Sherry Summerville at 503-860-6562, or visit An open registration will be held at the studio from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 14. All interested special-needs students age 8 and older and their parents are welcome.

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