LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Dance is a fantastic form of creativity and expression, but some kids and teens can be left out of dance classes because of developmental or behavioral disorders.
Victoria Carrier, owner of Premier Dance Center in Lake Charles, talked to her instructors about creating a dance class specifically for those with special needs, and the whole studio got on board.
The result: "Buddy Dance," a 30 minute inclusive dance class that meets once a week, providing people with special needs a place to let loose doing an activity that might have been exclusive before because of behavioral or developmental disorders.
"We don't treat them any differently," said instructor, Chelsea Guidry. "We give them their time to shine. This is for them."
Guidry's day job is working with children who have special needs, but her other passion is dance.
That unique combination helps Guidry shape the classes and performances around the specific needs of her students.
"We try to keep the music down, turning on all the lights, instead of having them shine right on them. Picking out the costume, as well. I didn't want anything with tights, because a few of them are particular with the type of clothing they're going to wear," said Guidry.
10-year-old Sydney Hoffoss was diagnosed with autism at two years old. Her mom, Corlissa, says watching Sydney light up in dance class brings her so much joy.
"It means a lot for us because she works so hard all the time," said Hoffoss. "She works hard at school, she works hard at therapy, she does so much that may come easily to other people and it's a little more difficult for her. It's nice to have something that she enjoys and loves doing."
Their smiles say it all and keep them coming back each week with one goal in mind.
"Have fun!" said Braun Bourque, a student in the class who has down syndrome.
For the parents, Buddy Dance is about more than dance. It is about an open door into their child's world.
"You never know what's going to spark something in them that's going to make them want to communicate more, make them participate more," said Hoffoss. "Our goal with Sydney is always to become more a part of her world, then to have her become part of ours, so anything to facilitate that is a plus."
Buddy Dance is open to boys and girls regardless of age or range of special needs.
The class meets 5:30-6 p.m. every Friday at Victoria Carrier's Premier Dance Center on Petro Point Drive in Lake Charles. The cost is $15 a month.