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Girls in Wheelchairs Perform Dance Tribute to Friend Who Died Unexpectedly: 'It Was Either Smile or Cry'

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A video of an Ohio wheelchair dance troupe’s moving tribute to one of its dancers who died unexpectedly has gone viral.

A video of the Revere Dance Studio’s Wonders on Wheels (WOW) team’s performance set to Céline Dion‘s “My Heart Will Go On” has been viewed more than 6 million times on Facebook. The performance was a tribute to a member of the Cincinnati, Ohio, dance troupe named Katie who died suddenly in September.

“We unexpectedly lost one of our dancers back in September – it was actually the week we were starting back up, we were going to start back up the week she passed away,” Tracey Burgoon, owner and choreographer at the Revere Dance Studio told WCPO.

“Her favorite singer was Celine Dion, she loved ballet, so we decided to make this song a tribute to her,” Burgoon continued.

The six dancers, who range in age from 6 to 27, were joined by 14 “shadow” dancers (in black) who volunteer their time to dance alongside the WOW team and help the girls move across the dance floor.

a Wheels of Wonder dancer performs with her shadows
“They help them maneuver when they can’t move their arms,” she explained. “We just really try to work with them. It’s just as important for the ‘shadow’ to work with the girls.”

Burgoon said she has a waiting list of dancers who want to volunteer their time with the program that meets for free dance classes twice per month.

The team had been rehearsing the dance they performed Sunday since October. Their performance marked the first time the group had danced in a show without Katie. It was met with raucous applause.

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When Burgoon complimented 27-year-old WOW student Jill Schmiade on her smile throughout the performance, Jill responded, “It was either smile or cry,” USA Today reports.

“The way that I feel about people watching this is exciting but sad because I wish Katie was here to experience it,” Schmiade told The Northern Kentucky Tribune.

“I get to feel normal for once because I am around others who are in wheelchairs. We all enjoy it so much and love showing that dance and be done with not just your feet but with your hands,” Schmiade said of the program.