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“When we dance, we feel really happy.” This quote sums up sisters Ava and Sophia Paley and what they try to spread to the world with their work as dancers and philanthropists.
Ava and Sophia are two New York City-based dancers that have turned their dance memories into a support system for dancers around the world. After cleaning out their closets only to find piles of lightly-worn dancewear, the sisters knew that they could be doing more with the shoes, costumes, and leotards that helped them enjoy their passion. “We noticed how many costumes, leotards, and shoes we had grown out of,” the girls said. “We had closets and suitcases filled with costumes from past recitals and dancewear we had only worn a few times!”
The sisters dance at Shuffles Broadway Tap and Musical Theater School. They’ve been dancing since they were each 5 years old. “Our mom used to tap dance as a little girl,” they told us, “so we decided to ‘follow in her footsteps’ and try tap dancing.” It wasn’t long before the sisters fell in love with tap dancing. Hip hop, jazz, and ballet soon followed, adding to their schedules and their shoe and costume collections.
Knowing they couldn’t be the only ones with a lifetime of dancewear that could be used for more than just taking up closet space, Ava and Sophia set up a bin at Shuffles to collect donations. It was overflowing within a week.
“Our journey took off from there,” they said. They found their name, Donate2Dance, commissioned a logo, designed a website, and started reaching out to dance schools in their area, so they could gather even more donations with Donate2Dance bins. The final step? Sending those donations to dancers in need and dancers with special needs that could use them to keep doing the thing they love.
Donate2Dance now ships gently used items to 65 different dance programs, but Ava and Sophia aren’t just collecting clothes and shoes, they’re also getting to know the people they help and visiting their studios. In June of 2019, they visited PS 157, a dance studio in Brooklyn New York that they donated hundreds of items to in order to supplement an underfunded program. “It was a heartwarming experience to meet the kids we had given to, see their reactions, and realize what an impact we had made on their lives.” Ava and Sophia also spent time that day teaching students at PS 157 how to tap dance and performing for them.
When asked what their journey with Donate2Dance has taught them about dance, Ava and Sophia shared that they realized how easy it is to take for granted being able to replace the things they use every day in dance class, like clothes and shoes. Since starting Donate2Dance, their perspective has changed drastically. “While shipping to over 65 different dance programs in need, we saw, first hand, how many dancers around the world cannot afford tap shoes or leotards or recital costumes.” Now, they are grateful that they can fill their lives with the smiling faces of the dancers they have helped.
One of the things that makes Donate2Dance so special is that it is motivated and supported by dancers and their passion for sharing their love of dance. But, Ava and Sophia’s work isn’t limited to donations from studios. “Companies like Capezio and PrimaSoft reached out wanting to donate,” they told us, “and dance stores around the country reached out to us and wanted to set up their own Donate2Dance bins!”
Ava and Sophia are thrilled that the brands that have been a major part of their dance careers are involved in their dream to bring dance to anyone who is inspired to put their feet on the floor and move. These companies ship donations to Donate2Dance to be distributed. Norwegian Cruise Line’s Creative Studio, in particular, donates boxes of tap and jazz shoes and dancewear each month. They have also worked with famous dancers they admire like Tiler Peck and Sutton Foster.
While Ava and Sophia are the driving force behind Donate2Dance, they rely on their ambassadors to help them bring Donate2Dance into more and more studios. To get involved, you can donate directly via their website, Donate2Dance.org, or contact them at [email protected] to become a Donate2Dance Ambassador and learn how to partner with a local dance studio to collect shoes, costumes, and dancewear.