Dancing with a purpose: Woman with down syndrome teaches dance class

Dancing with a purpose: Woman with down syndrome teaches dance class
Tess Landry stretches to prepare for class. (Source: WVUE)

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The young dancers at the Martha Mayer School of Dance perfect their craft, nailing every step along the way. While the goal is to blend in with the team, there’s one person in the sea of black leotards who stands out because of what she’s had to overcome to get there.

21-year old Tess Landry is an assistant dance instructor at the Martha Mayer School of Dance. She also has down syndrome.

“I love to dance so much and it makes me so happy and i just feel something in my heart from it," said Landry.

Tess’ mother, Angel Landry, said that enrolling her at the Martha Mayer School of Dance 18 years ago was a gamble and that they didn’t know if it would even work. Gina Iserman, co-owner of the School of Dance, however, said that Tess is just like everyone else.

“She fit right in with the class, the students, no one changed anything that they did, we didn't change anything that we did,” said Iserman, “She always kept up and she always had a smile on her face.”

Through the years, Tess’ skills improved. Two years ago, she even received the honor of becoming an assistant director after passing an intense test. Now, Tess helps lead a class.

“It was kinda hard but i just did the score set and i thought have fun with it so i did good,” said Landry.

Tess' mom likes to say everything she does is a milestone because although she loved to perform from a young age, it wasn't always easy.

“She didn’t start walking until 18 months and born with an extra bone in each of her feet, the pain can be extreme,” said Angel Landry, “But she pushes through the pain because performing is what she loves.”

Angel Landry also said that the message they have lived by since Tess was born was to not treat Tess any different than anyone else and to let her try what she loves.

“My goal is just to stay focused and concentrate and make some plans,” said Tess, “I just want to build myself up, try to be more confident.”

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