The Show Must Go On: Borderless Arts Tennessee Debuts on Broadway

By Lori Kissinger, Executive Director of Borderless Arts TN
Image description 1: Five adult dancers with disabilities stand on a Broadway stage with their hands raised in identical poses in the air; the 3 men are wearing slacks and button down white collared shirts; the two women are wearing similar flowing belted dresses, one blue and one white. Their instructor and choreographer has her back to the camera and is kneeling in front of the stage facing them. Behind the dancers, it shows a logo for “Dance the World: Broadway” which is a New York skyline and a pair of red sneakers.

In 2022, the dance program of Borderless Arts Tennessee returned from dancing in Walt Disney World believing that nothing could be better.  The group was the first group of dancers all with disabilities to perform in the Dance The World program on a stage at Disney World.

However, the group would be wrong in their thinking, because an even bigger opportunity was in store for them in 2023. Due to their performance at Disney World, the group was invited to perform on a Broadway stage in New York City!

The New York opportunity was even more exciting because it involved more than a performance on a Broadway Stage, which would have been monumental on its own. This opportunity would allow the dancers to take part in three intensive master classes with world class choreographers while working alongside able-bodied dancers.  The group would also learn a dance with all the dancers and perform it at Times Square.

The summer saw a lot of work by the dancers as they prepared to meet this exciting opportunity. Yet, sometimes reality is something for which we cannot prepare.

dancers in athletic gear doing coordinated dance moves during rehearsal.

The New York activities were to begin with the Broadway dance performances. The Borderless Dance group flew out the night before this event, but a couple of the dancers were booked on a different flight – a flight that did not go out. These dancers were stranded. They were not just stranded for a few hours, but for an entire night.

As time continued to tick into the morning, one of the dancers already in New York with his family had a sibling who contracted food poisoning. She became so ill that an ambulance had to be called. Her mother rode to the hospital with her, leaving the dancer in the hands of the group.

The performance time rapidly approached. Our dance group rallied at the back of the stage with two dancers still missing and one dancer wondering about his sister at a hospital in an unfamiliar city. Yet, as the saying goes, “the show must go on.”

Just moments before the curtain call, the missing two dancers rushed in, pulling on their costumes while stumbling through a haze of no sleep… The troupe took the stage.  The curtain pulled and the lights shone down.

The dancers hit their marks as only true professionals can do. It was the one dance that brought tears to the eyes of those off stage and brought the audience to their feet. It was a perfect show. No one else knew what it had taken to get there.

A large group of people are shown doing a choreographed dance down the middle of a large New York city street, all wearing bright red outfits.

As the workshops began, other dance companies remarked on the passion and commitment these dancers gave to everything they did. They became the darlings of the event, winning the hearts of all around them. 

It was not until they got back to Tennessee that anyone found out about all that the group was facing just moments before they stood on the biggest stage they had ever seen.  No one could tell what this group had been through to make it that far. But to this group, the challenges started long before delayed planes and sick sisters. They had never let a challenge keep them from their dreams and they continued to hold to that standard.

Maybe the Broadway song “New York, New York” is true when it says, “If I can make it there, I can make it anywhere.” These dancers did make it there. They were great ambassadors for dance, for Tennessee, for people with disabilities, and for themselves.

You may be thinking that the group finally made it to the top and that is the end of the story…. but it isn’t.  The group has now been invited by the U.S. Embassy in Belgium to visit this summer as part of a cultural exchange and perform at the U.S. ambassador’s residence.  We are watching world events to determine if this trip will take place, but the invitation stands. We hope to see them flying over the ocean at the end of May.

Remember, they already made it in New York. They can make it anywhere.     

Lori Kissinger is Executive Director of Borderless Arts Tennessee. Borderless Arts is a statewide organization committed to inclusive and accessible arts programs for people with disabilities to enhance educational curriculum, enrich creative expression, empower career development, and encourage community engagement. Visit for more information.


Editor’s Note: We were proud to play a small role in helping the Borderless Arts TN dancers prepare for their Broadway debut by funding their extra trainings through our Council on Developmental Disabilities Scholarship Fund!