Chicago dancer gives back to her community

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FOX 32 NEWS - She was told she would never dance again, but an Austin native didn’t let a debilitating disease stand in her way of giving back to her community.

Dani Jo Williams now owns her own dance company, The Dani Jo Company teaches for the Joffrey Ballet and strives to inspire young girls every day.

The ballet class is structured and teaches students posture and poise, but Williams says class is also about self-worth. Growing up on the city's West Side, she knows that can be a struggle.

“They have to know that they are queens, wherever they are, the tendus and the piles and the posture - that's all to let them know that don't let your crown slip,” said Williams. 

Inside The Dance Center on the city's North Side, girls from Englewood and Austin are gathering and learning ballet from West Side native Williams.

“Dance gives you that feeling to be able to grasp onto something that's bigger than you,” said Williams, who explains that dance became her outlet at a young age. “The more I went through life - things like molestation and being in my community - dance was a way to express myself.”

In the beginning, it was a struggle explaining her new love of dance - specifically ballet - to her friends and neighbors in Austin who were all dancing to jazz and hip hop. Now, she's trying to bring ballet to more girls across the city, inviting them out of their neighborhoods to dance.

“When you visit the West Side and the South Side, sometimes they don’t see that they don’t have, those opportunities around them,” said Williams.

At a young age, Williams had found her calling. But then at the age of 23, she was told she would never dance again and was diagnosed with Interstitial Cystitis, an incurable and painful bladder syndrome where the bladder lining tears.

She didn't let her disease stop her, though. Williams said she changed her diet to an all organic, no processed foods diet to ease the pain and focused her attention on her girls.

“I never thought that I could dance and never wanted to dance until I met Dani Jo,” said dance student Brielle Hawkins, who is grateful Williams is providing an outlet. “Open up more opportunities for them, so they won’t be on the streets. All these girls won’t be getting involved in stuff they shouldn't been getting involved in.”

The dance teacher credits her success to her family and her husband and said her goals aren’t met.

She wants to take The Dani Jo Company global and encourage more women to become role models for young girls.