Give the gift of WDET membership!

Expand the WDET Family with the gift of WDET membership on behalf of someone else. Your gift will be matched dollar-for-dollar and we’ll send a card letting them know that they’re on Team DET.

Give today and select “Gift Membership” to address your donation.

Give Now! »

Heard on CultureShift

Meet the Michigan Para Athlete Competing On the Global Stage

post thumbnail image

Image credit: Meta Stange/WDET

Aubrey Meade and Andrew Downs will be the first American dance pair to compete at the World Para Dance Sport competition in Bonn, Germany.

Tweet This

The world of para dance, popular in Europe, is solidifying its presence in the United States. The sport involves an accessible-style of ballroom dance featuring physically challenged athletes in wheelchairs and their able-bodied partners performing together. It’s stylish and elegant.


Related: How Michigan Became America’s Epicenter of Accessible Ballroom Dancing


And also, something Andrew Downs, a 23-year-old para-athlete and dance student at the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Bloomfield Hills, found to be “the coolest thing ever,” when he attended his first class on a Saturday. But, there was still a bit of hesitation about taking it on. 

When I saw it, I was like, these are the most magical [human beings], I’ve ever seen in my life.” - Andrew Downs, para-athlete

It wasn’t my disability, it was the emasculation point,” he tells CultureShift’s Ryan Patrick Hooper. “Moving my body in ways that I’m not used to and grinding my hips and doing all these other things, so that was [a reservation]. But, then when I saw it, I was like these are the most magical [human beings], I’ve ever seen in my life.” 

Andrew Downs, 23-year-old dance student and para-athlete and Aubrey Meade,  studio manager at the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in West BloomfieldMeta Stange/WDET
Meta Stange/WDET

Andrew Downs, 23-year-old dance student and para-athlete and Aubrey Meade, studio manager at the Fred Astaire Dance Studio in West Bloomfield

The stories that unfold when dancing is another aspect that connected with Downs.

When you do the freestyles, you’re definitely telling a story with the music and the type of dance you’re doing,” he says. “Really it’s just the flow of your body, the shapes and the music that goes with it that creates an image that’s bigger than what you’re seeing. You can feel things on a different level.” 

On Thursday, Nov. 28, Andrew and Aubrey Meader, studio manager at the Fred Astaire Dance Studio, will be in Germany performing in the World Para Dance Sport competition in Bonn. The dancing duo will be the first ever Americans to compete at the international competition.

Click the player for Ryan Patrick Hooper’s full conversation with Aubrey and Andrew about the world of para dance and representing the U.S. in the competition. 


Ryan Patrick Hooper, Host, CultureShift

Ryan Patrick Hooper is a host of CultureShift and longtime arts, culture and music reporter.

hooper@wdet.org Follow @hoopingtonpost

LaToya Cross, Producer, CultureShift

LaToya Cross is a Producer with CultureShift, where she produces in-depth content that spotlights creatives and individuals using their platform to examine, cultivate, shape and shift culture.

Latoya.cross@wdet.org Follow @ToizStory

Stay connected to Detroit