Robert Wallop has some winning dance moves. The recent Broadneck High School graduate won gold in the solo dance category of the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Graz, Austria — his second time winning gold in just two years.
“Dancing is fun and exciting, and it lets you show your passion,” Robert says. “Dancing also makes me feel proud and special.”
Robert, who has Down syndrome, has been wowing friends and family with his rhythm and hip-hop moves since the age of 8, and he began dancing competitively a few years ago. He first won gold in Los Angeles in 2015 and won again this year in Austria, an experience he calls “amazing.”
“The best part was getting to meet so many people,” says Robert, who met stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Louis Van Amstel of “Dancing With the Stars” fame.
Robert’s parents, Ann and Doug Wallop, who own Annapolis Family Physical Therapy, have been instrumental in helping Robert with his career as a dancer by traveling with him and raising money. They also helped form Robert’s integrated dance team, Rhythm Express, which has dancers of all abilities and has gained sponsorship from Van Amstel.
“For Robert, it’s never been about winning. It’s about the fun of practicing and being with friends and sharing what you’re doing,” Ann Wallop says. “His reward is the applause, and he gets as much back from the audience as he gives.”
Robert also counts his three brothers, JD, 25, Michael, 22, and Cameron, 15, as his biggest fans. The entire family travelled to Austria to cheer him on.
“Our family has developed so many relationships with other athletes, coaches and families from around the world,” Ann Wallop says. “Dance really does have the ability to cross all boundaries and bring us all closer to one another.”
Robert choreographs all of his routines and is inspired by dancers like Van Amstel, Channing Tatum and Michael Jackson. Certified in LaBlast, a dance and fitness program developed by Van Amstel, Robert has also assisted in teaching some area classes. He is currently the worlds only certified LaBlast instructor with special needs.
This summer Robert will compete at the Maryland Special Olympics in Towson, and he looks forward to a bright future in dance.
“Robert’s dancing has presented a tremendous amount of social and career opportunities,” Ann Wallop says. “It has given him so much confidence.”
At Broadneck, Robert takes a Dance for Athletes class and attends after-school dance classes two times a week. He has future aspirations as a model and looks forward to dancing for many years to come.
“I know that I can help bring people together through dance,” Robert says. “I want to make the world a better place through dance.”
By Katie Riley
Photo of Louis Van Amstel, of “Dancing with the Stars” fame with Robert Wallop and his gold medals. Courstey of the Wallop family.