Stefan Badea and Deborah (Deb) Millington Holmes met two and a half years ago the way many dance friendships begin: at a local dance studio. Their Pro-Am partnership (when a Professional dances at ballroom competitions with their student) grew into a strong friendship, and now, into a collaborative effort to make ballroom dance more accessible across the globe.
Deb is enthusiastic about both dance and life,“I’m always up for a challenge!” she chuckled, “which is good because Stefan kicks my butt on a regular basis!” This made Stefan laugh, too. Their partnership is visibly symbiotic, on and off the dance floor, making the success of their newest venture irrefutable.
Several years ago, Deb connected with the South African Dancesport community. Working alongside adjudicators, teachers, and dancers, she donated approximately 150 pairs of dance shoes at the regional DanceSport competition in Cape Town, South Africa. As she saw the change that the simple gift of a pair of shoes could make, she became determined to be more involved in making ballroom accessible for dancers in need.
As ballroom dancers know, there is strength in a partnership. The most powerful outcomes come when two individuals work together. Deb reflected on her own relationship with Stefan—they were good friends and they collaborated well on and off the dance floor. Perhaps Stefan would be interested in working with her to start a nonprofit…
Of course he was up for it! Like prepping for a competition, Stefan and Deb hit the ground running. The HeartSoles foundation was born in June, 2021 with a goal to collect 1,000 pairs of shoes by donation and raise $10,000, in the next year, which HeartSoles will use to set up scholarships for in-need dancers to enter competitions, buy costumes, and pay for dance classes. HeartSoles had its public donation debut at the Desert Classic Dancesport Championships earlier this year—about 100 pairs of shoes were donated, a donor from China shipped them 350 pairs of brand new dance shoes, and an anonymous donor made a $7500 gift. What a start.
As they do for their dancing, Stefan and Deb have built lofty goals for HeartSoles. They intend for their organization to gain the support of dancers globally to support dance communities in need in Cape Town and beyond. Deb believes the pandemic has shifted, or strengthened, the love of dancing globally, “for many of us, being without dance, or an adapted form of dance from home, was difficult,” she said, “[the pandemic] allowed me and others to see a greater opportunity to help other dancers.”
Stefan and Deb are grateful for their immediate dance community, “these the most caring and supportive individuals,” Stefan commented. Needless to say, this community supported and encouraged the onset of HeartSoles.
“I feel so fortunate to have Stefan in my life”, Deb says, and we are grateful for the support of our “dance family”, Whitney Myers (Stefan’s professional partner), Genya Malko and Anna Shahbazyan—fabulous humans, thoughtful, wise, and totally supportive of us as dancers and of HeartSoles Foundation. We are truly lucky.” And for everything they have received from this community, Deb and Stefan seek to give back. The dance community is a powerful place!
How can you support this incredible organization? HeartSoles will be taking donations (of shoes, costumes, or monetary gifts) at the Great Gatsby Gala, Embassy Dancesport, and the United States Dancesport Championships (USDC). Soon, there will be a donation portal on the Facebook page and Website where you will be able to donate anytime.