Cary, NC – A Cary-based program has been helping special-needs people participate in dance and build confidence, all free of charge.
Building Confidence Through Dance
Abilities Dance was started by Caroline Le in 2015, with classes on modern and jazz dance for special-needs students.
“Over the years, it’s grown a lot in terms of students and the community impacts,” Le said. “One of the biggest parts of our growth is we have groups in the community asking us to perform and get involved now.”
Through Abilities Dance, Le said participating students build up their confidence. When most students come in, Le said, they are nervous about not only how they’ll do in their dancing but who they know or don’t know in the program. But quickly, both Le and instructor Janice Kim said they learn to make friends.
“The biggest change we see is the relationship between students,” Kim said. “With the help of instructors, they’re able to build relationships with one another.”
Abilities Dance is mainly modern and jazz dance because that is what Le is most familiar with from her own dance training. But Le also says jazz dance fits the program well.
“Ballet is very strict but with jazz, you have the same technique without the strictness so you can be flexible in the classes,” Le said.
Reaching Out to Help
Le started Abilities Dance in 2015 after inspiration from a similar program that works with special-needs students: the Abilities Tennis Association of North Carolina.
“When I began volunteering with Abilities Tennis, I had never worked with this community before so I was nervous. I didn’t know if there would be boundaries with communication,” Le said. “But the students I worked with were so caring and loving and there was no boundary.”
That led Le to create her own special-needs program out of her experience with dance. And like how Le started volunteering with Abilities Tennis without prior experience, Abilities Dance gives anyone the opportunity to volunteer.
“Even without dance experience, the students love seeing new faces and getting encouragement,” Le said.
Kim said she has seen volunteers get their own benefits out of helping as well.
“I’ve talked to volunteers who were nervous but now are so invested in the program and dedicated to friendship with these students,” Kim said.
Abilities Dance classes are held on Fridays at 7:30 PM and are all free to attend.
Story by Michael Papich. Photos courtesy of Abilities Dance.