NORTHFIELD, Ohio — A Hudson family, dealing with an unimaginable loss, is getting support from near and far so their two young girls can continue to do what they love: Dance.
Hundreds of students and their parents walk through the doors of Center Stage Dance Studio in Northfield every week. The studio offers dance education in all styles of dance for kids and adults, both recreationally and competitively.
Mitchel Federan is the owner and director of the studio and he knows when a student, or students, have something special. He saw that immediately in, now, 14-year old Selina Li and her 10-year old sister, Alicia.
“I was just blown away by their potential,” he said. “They’re the hardest workers and they’re so talented. I mean undeniable talent that these two girls have.”
Jordan Salisbury has been the Li’s teacher and choreographer for the past few years.
“They are those students that I know I will remember forever,” she said. “Their passion is undeniable and they are the ones always cheering on their teammates.”
But it wasn’t just the girls’ grit that made them special, but their dad Sinan and mom, Ying.
“It’s kind of rare that I talk to a dance dad, usually I am dealing with dance moms,” said Federan.
He said he’s never seen a father more determined to help his girls pursue their love for dance.
“He would be here at the studio, every day, while they danced,” said Federan. “Watching them up on our viewing monitors, at every dance competition which again, there’s not many dads that go to every dance competition, but he was always there.”
Earlier this month, Sinan had a biking accident that led to fatal head trauma. It was a loss that shocked the entire Center Stage community.
Lily Detwiller, 15, dances with Selina and Alicia. She said the news of Sinan’s death was surreal.
“I was just like this can’t be happening, this can’t be real,” she said. “We just wanted to be there for them.”
Federan knew that the girls shouldn’t have to lose another love.
“All that we can do is to make sure they can stay in dance because everything else is going to change in their lives and we don’t want this to change as well,” he said.
He knew they would need financial help to sustain the level of dance the two are at now, saying in the 2021-2022 the Li Family paid thousands of dollars for their education including group dances, ballet training programs, private lessons, master classes, competition entry fees and more.
“When a family goes down to a single-family household, something like an extracurricular, would typically be the first they have to give up,” he added. “These are not girls that are here one day a week, these are serious dancers. They’re here four days a week. We knew from the start that the financial burden that would be placed on them now may be too much to handle.”
Donations have poured in from their Center Stage family, their Hudson community and dancers across the country. In two weeks, the page raised over $19,000.
Federan said staff, friends and teammates are collectively coming together to figure out what more can be done.
Wednesday, Salisbury hosted an alumni dance class and dancers, who may not have even known the Li family, danced for them.
“All of past Center Stage dancers are coming in tonight. It’s $20 per person and all of the proceeds are going to the Li family,” she said.
And just doors down from the studio, hundreds showed up to Center Stage’s benefit dinner. Bussey Events offered up space for the event and the restaurant Spennato’s donated the food.
Federan said he’s hoping to fundraise enough to keep the girls dancing through high school.
“I know in this horrible time of grieving that this is going to be a great way for them to have something consistent in their lives and I know that’s what dance can be for them.”
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