Now in its 6th year, we have expanded Tour de Force to include a multi-level program to allow more children with a range of abilities to try ballet for the first time. Together, with our Company and MBII dancers and the help of Children’s Hospital, we have seen how ballet can transform these young lives.

For more information, contact Samantha Martinson at

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With gratitude, Tour de Force is supported by Heil Family Foundation.


    This class consists of children with very involved needs. They are dependent for cares and transfers. They may or may not have head control. This is a slow movement or stretching class, and children are paired with a physical or occupational therapist, and a dancer from the Milwaukee Ballet. Class is conducted out of the child’s wheelchair with the use of floor mats, wedges, benches or bolsters to achieve the appropriate alignment and comfort for the child while addressing the goals of the class.


    This is a class for elementary aged children (both cognitively and actually – approximately 6-9 years old, 1st-4th grade) to stretch and learn the basics of ballet both on the floor and at the barre. These children must have head control, but may require use of wheelchairs, walkers or crutches for mobility aides. They may require Orthotics and it is up to the child if they would like to wear them during class. These children are paired with a physical or occupational therapist or a therapy student, as well as a dancer from the Milwaukee Ballet, based on their needs.


    This class is for children ages 5-7 (Kindergarten through 2nd grade) who are independent walkers. They may use braces/Orthotics to aid in their walking or require a hand held for higher level balance tasks. These children learn ballet stretches, and do both work at the barre and center or across the room. They are paired with another child in the class and a helper. Helpers in the class are either therapy students or our dancers. One physical or occupational therapist is also present at each class to provide assistance as necessary.


    This class is for upper elementary school and middle school aged children who use a wheelchair as a primary means of mobility. They are able to move their wheelchair on their own and are interested in learning dance moves while remaining sitting in their chair. Children should be open and willing to try new things. One physical or occupational therapist will be present in the class to provide assistance to the dance instructor as necessary.

How did Tour de Force come about?

The program was the brainchild of Dr. Maya Evans, MD, Director of Pediatrics, Physical Medicine & Rehab at Children’s Hospital. We imagined if these children who have a range of disabilities could see that dancers have a very strict training regimen, and they weren’t the only ones in the world who had to push their bodies on a daily basis, they would be motivated to stretch and do their exercises more often.

How does Tour de Force empower these children?

The benefits are far greater and the rewards much bigger than we ever imagined. These children are doing ballet, stretching, growing and changing!

Diane Feldt, a physical therapist for Children’s Hospital and mother of an eight-year-old daughter in the program, said, “When Anna actively flexed her knees and performed a plié, I cried tears of joy. She ‘got’ it. It is nothing short of amazing.”

Our dancers are inspired to keep pushing themselves as they see their ballet buddies making weekly progress – lifting their torsos, responding to touch and direction, standing in “relevé,” walking, jumping and holding their arms in fifth position with less assistance or none at all.

What makes Tour de Force so special?

At the end of their 5-week session, the children and their families enjoy a family-friendly Milwaukee Ballet performance where they see ‘their’ dancer on stage!

We named the program Tour de Force because we see each of our young dancers take big steps, leaps, and strides in every class! In the short time since Tour de Force began, the program has won a Eureka! Award from the Milwaukee Business Journal for Innovation in the Performing Arts, and has been featured on CBS 58 Sunday Morning and an Emmy-nominated episode of Milwaukee PBS’s The Arts Page.

Together we are all doing something neither organization – Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin nor Milwaukee Ballet – could do alone.  We’ll continue to inspire and be inspired!

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