When Mary Lane Porter graduated high school in 2007 and transplanted from Ardmore, Oklahoma to attend Arizona State University as a dance major, she had no idea it would lead her to start the non-profit organization “Dancers and Health Together” (DAHT), and what that would in turn lead to.
Although Mary Lane says she “basically came out of the womb dancing”, she would eventually realize how much the movement of dance helped her as well as others to feel better physically and mentally. Dance has helped Porter conquer health problems, depression, and shyness, and has provided an emotional escape as well as a form of expression. By junior year of college, this realization led to the DAHT project getting underway.
In 2011, the mother of teenager Zach Robertin found DAHT while surfing the web. Her son Zach has Asperger’s Syndrome, a more highly functioning form of autism. She promptly emailed Mary Lane and told her how dance had helped Zach overcome the obstacles of Asperger’s. Mary Lane was intrigued and wanted to hear more about Zach’s story, ultimately deciding that his story needed a full-on documentary to do it justice.
After some false starts, in summer of 2012 Mary Lane posted a notice on the Facebook page “AZ Film People” seeking a filmmaker to help, and immediately got a response from local film producer Marcelo Dietrich (Dietrich was among those featured in our most recent Oscar season interviews with local filmmakers). He then introduced her to cinematographer Jason Smolesky. And "Dance Your Asperger's Off", the 22-minute documentary about Zach and his involvement with DAHT was born.
Filming and editing has been completed, and the film is now in the process of being submitted to film festivals, in the hopes that it will help expose even more people to the healing powers of dance and movement.
Throughout her life, Mary Lane mainly focused on competition style dance, similar to what one would see on “So You Think You Can Dance”. She chose to attend ASU because they had the number one dance program for public universities in the nation. After graduating, she remained in Arizona because she had founded DAHT and built a clientele here and wants to build its foundation before expanding it to other states.
DAHT does not have a mortar and brick studio but travels to facilities where they collaborate with other organizations and studios. She hopes to get the message across about how many different styles of dance are available in Phoenix, Arizona and how many resources there are to use motion to help with many of life’s difficulties.
Most recently, DAHT has been focusing on the “Young Voices” school program, working with underprivileged children and children with special needs. The three schools they are working with this fall are Washington, Marcus de Niza and Westwood High Schools.
Like many other transplants, Mary Lane has brought so much to this state. Fortunately for Arizona, she doesn’t have any plans to go back to Oklahoma. After graduating high school, she could not wait to leave her small town for the big city and adored every minute of college. She loved the diversity of the Phoenix area and the friendliness of its people. Though she misses her family and goes back once or twice a year to visit, she’d still rather live in Arizona. Her favorite part of the state? The sun.
And so, the Arizona climate has danced its way into the heart of yet another transplant, one who is truly an asset to the desert dance scene.
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