One might say dancing is Michelle Abbruzzese's life.
Her mom put her in her first dance class when she was just 3 years old. She's danced and performed into her 40s, even as a New England Patriots cheerleader at Superbowl XXXVI, and now she owns her own dance and fitness studio in Norwalk.
One might also say dancing helped save her life.
Abbruzzese, a Norwalk resident for the last 10 years, was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in 2005 and she continues to fight, and beat, the disease.
"I went through a lumpectomy. I didn't do chemotherapy or radiation," Abbruzzese told the Norwalk Citizen. "I decided to go a more natural, holistic path. I'm still here. I have beaten the odds of many people."
"He's been very supportive in the fact that I wanted to do something other than traditional medicine," she said. "One of the main things that the doctors still think contribute to my remission is that I have been a dancer all my life. They are thinking that's one of the things that's helped keep me fit and in remission. I exercise often and use dance as my outlet."
She is hoping other survivors, their family and friends will choose dance as an outlet Sunday when she hosts "Dance for Pink ~ A Celebration of Survival" at her studio, Work It Dance and Fitness, located at 19 North Main St., which opened in 2010. All proceeds will benefit the C.H.A.I.N Fund, which provides short-term financial aid in the form of direct bill payments for cancer patients in active treatment.
The event will include the following activities:
1 p.m. -- Welcome Reception
1:30 p.m. -- Pole Dance for Pink, a pole dancing lesson for men and women of all fitness levels. No experience needed.
2:30 p.m. -- Burlesque for Breasts, a fun theater jazz/cabaret class that is fun and flirty
3:30 p.m. -- Silent Auction- Sponsors include Stylin' Hair Salon, Dominique Urso Fashions, Savor Pizza, European Wax Center, Jeannie Stevens Yoga, and more.
Abbruzzese pointed out there are many events to raise breast cancer awareness as October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but none as unique as this.
"This is my first event and I'm really excited about it," Abbruzzese said. "I've gotten tons of community support. There's so much being done this month because it's Breast Cancer Awareness Month -- marathons, Zumba-thons, traditional walks. I really wanted to do something fun that would not only bring awareness to breast cancer but other types of cancer as well. And I wanted to celebrate survival. For someone who is going through this, it's a battle. And people should be happy to be alive and to celebrate. They can do that through dance. It's very hard to be upset and dance."
She also wants to raise awareness about the types of dancing/fitness classes she offers at her studio, such as pole dancing.
"I want to give exposure to pole fitness. What is it? Can anybody do it? I think there is a lot of stigma around what it is, even though many of the major networks have had pole dancing featured," Abbruzzese said. "It's been on `Oprah,' `Ellen,' `Good Morning America.' It's not about training to be a stripper. We are getting fit and building up the muscles of our bodies and doing something really fun.
"And burlesque is about having a good time and being girlie."
During the Dance For Pink event, classes will cost $15. People can just drop in.
The C.H.A.I.N Fund was founded by New Haven Police Officer Kelly Turner, diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in July 2001.
"Turner went through chemo and radiation back in July of 2001 at age 36, and for about 18 months while she was doing that she couldn't work," Abbruzzese said. "The police force starting raising money for her to help her pay for her mortgage and car. She was so moved by that she wanted to do that for other people.
"We met because she came knocking on my door to see if I could hang up a poster for her so she could get a little more publicity for her fund. We got to talking. She found out I was a survivor. We exchanged stories and it was just something that resonated with me. It's amazing what she's done. It's something I really latched onto."
For information about Dance for Pink, call 203-803-9398 or visit www.workitfit.com.