Our History 

Founded in February, 1989, Dance Express premiered its first studio concert in May, 1989 at the Downtown Community Center. In August, dancers appeared at the first official Fort Collins’ New West Fest at Library Park. Since then each year, Dance Express creates annual dance and dance theatre productions, teaches adaptive modern dance workshops in schools and community centers, and makes guest appearances regionally. Through our workshop program since 1993, Dance Express has served more than 4,000 students and adults with and without disabilities.

Performances include:

Celebrations of Light & Love (2023) w. guests from FOCO FLAVA

Seven annual DANCE BEYOND the LIMITS western regional inclusive dance convenings (2017-2023)

Annual Studio Concerts in May; most recent STUDIO CONCERT '23: For the Love of It (May, 2023)

Annual December Productions (2017-2022):  Dreams in December, 2022; Twelfth Month, 2021; Dances of December, 2020; December Memories, 2019 w. guests from Impulse Dance & Fitness; Holiday Medley of Joy, 2018; December Delight, 2017

Guest appearances with Berthoud Dance Company at the Rialto Theatre in Loveland

Winter Solstice Celebration (2016)

A Winter's Solstice (2015)

The Christmas Rose (2013 & 2014)

Angel Dances & The Shepherds’ Play with area school children and community members (2009)

DanceMakers series with fellow dance artists with and without disabilities (2004-08) 

The Christmas Rose / La Rosa de Navidad (2003-2007)

Robin Hood (2002) with Aire Flamenco

2001: A Dance Odyssey (2001)  

ZORRO! (2000)

A Christmas Light with River Song Waldorf School (1998) 

"Together” series with Canyon Concert Ballet (1993-1997) 

Also seen throughout Fort Collins in First Night, Streetmosphere, & the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebrations!


Mary Elizabeth Lenahan Day 

May 24, 2009 was proclaimed Mary Elizabeth Lenahan Day by Fort Collins Mayor Doug Hutchinson to honor her as a leader in integrating people of all abilities in the joy of dance. 

Fort Collins Mayor's Award

2007 Dance Express was nominated for the Fort Collins Mayor’s Awards for its excellence and awarded Service Provider of the Year in 2017.

Hal O'Leary Inspiration Award 

2011 Tamara Mahler was awarded the Hal O'Leary Inspiration Award at Coors Stadium in Denver, Colorado.

Biz West Non-Profit Of The Year 

2022 Dance Express was named Biz West's Non-Profit Of The Year! 

Mary Elizabeth Lenahan,


Founder, Artistic & Executive Director

While completing her Masters in Occupational Therapy at Colorado State University in February,  1989, Mary Elizabeth  aligned with CSU Dance Department Head Jane Slusarski-Harris and Recreational Therapist Mark Rosoff to create and audition the original Dance Express troupe. With a work-study job, Lenahan moved ahead with establishing the inclusive dance company.  Thanks to her sister, Theresa, born with Down syndrome, Mary Elizabeth recognized the talents,  dance capabilities, and innate rhythmical aptitude of persons with Down syndrome. In 1992, Dance Express achieved incorporation in Colorado and federal 501(c)(3) status with a non-profit board of directors.  

 As the Artistic and Executive Director of Dance Express, Mary Elizabeth works with  the Board of Directors, dancers, community volunteers, and fellow artists to responsibly produce annual dance and dance theatre productions; adaptive dance workshops in  schools and community centers; and an annual regional inclusive dance  convening since 2017.  Dance Express enjoys working with area arts and education groups, making guest appearances, and augmenting access to the arts for persons with differing abilities, such as Down syndrome, autism, or developmental delay.  

 Named a Northern Colorado Woman of Distinction in 2015 and an honoree for the  Northern Colorado Community Ordinary Extraordinary People Award in 2019, she notes “Each of us has a dancer waiting to share the light.” In 2021, Lenahan became a  certified Colorado Creative Change Leader. In 2022 and 2023, she represented Dance  Express in the United Way Equity and Excellence cohort. She holds the DREAM  of establishing an expressive and healing arts center as a cultural hub.   To build inclusive dance, she uses her experiences as an  occupational therapist, modern dancer, and eurythmist founded from the State University of New York at  Albany (BA), Colorado State University (MS), Sound Circle Eurythmy, and dance  companies regionally, nationally, and internationally. Her dance is influenced by Maud  Baum of Electronic Body Works, Albany, NY; Paul Sanasardo and Manuel Alum, NY, NY;  Adrienne Posner, Albany, NY; Dixie Hayes Menzer & Debbi Gomes, Fort Collins, CO; Jane  Slusarski-Harris and guest instructors from Cleo Parker Robinson, Colorado State  University; Jana Meszaros with DanceAbility International, Portland, OR; and Tailfeather  Dance UK.

        FYI: Her love of dance started as a child at Sunday afternoon polka hops!