Last Christmas Angie Baker had the idea that some of her dance students could perform at Charleston area assisted living facilities. She wasn’t sure how the students would respond. Baker said she remembered doing something similar as a child and feeling a bit uncomfortable. Not so for the students at Dance Carolina in Mount Pleasant.
“To my surprise and elation, my students jumped on the idea,” Baker said. “They immediately asked when we could go back.”
Some even arranged to return with their own families to visit the residents. Another teen who assists Baker at the studio suggested they reach out to the Mount Pleasant Department of Recreation about adding a dance element to the existing program for student athletes with special needs.
“At that time I realized we may have something that the students would be involved in,” Baker said.
So the FEELanthropy program at Dance Carolina was born. Now, special needs students are attending dance classes at the studio twice a month. Baker’s students meet in advance of the class to discuss the lesson plan and then they stay to help with the class, dancing with the special needs students and demonstrating dance moves.
Baker is leading daytime classes at assisted living facilities, and she earned her certification in the Dance for PD™ program so she can work with local Parkinson’s disease support groups.
Twenty FEELanthropy apprentices are interested in learning more about working with differently abled dancers, Baker said. The students – ages 8 to 16 – have stepped forward to volunteer with the program in addition to their own dance classes.
“They have really learned to put other people in varied situations above their own comfort level,” Baker said.
In business for more than 10 years, Baker said she didn’t even realize this was a space in the community that needed filled, but she’s excited to be the one leading this FEELanthropy movement with her students.
“The ideas and enthusiasm came from my students,” she said. “I feel like the universe set it up that this was a path I was supposed to take.”
Plus this allows Baker to impart an important lesson that there’s more to life than competition and trophies.
“One thing we’ve learned together is that we are dancing because it is rewarding rather than for awards,” Baker said. “It is a much more fulfilling use of our talents. We get our trophy every single week when our guests come and dance with us.”