‘Nothing but thanks:’ Blugolds bring new dance class for area youth with disabilities

A new program launched this spring, brings together Blugold students and area youth with disabilities, in the art of dancing.
Published: Apr. 14, 2022 at 5:40 AM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - “Starting class we stretch and warmup, we cross the floor, we’ll do fun little songs and freeze dance,” laughs Baillie Ollila, a junior kinesiology-rehabilitation science major and director of the dance program. “Little things like that just to get them going.”

Each Monday night you’ll find a handful of Blugold students with their dedicated dance partners leaving it all on the dancefloor.

A space and creative outlet Ollila has been planning for years.

“Individuals with disabilities is an underserved community and so bringing a program like this into Eau Claire is huge just to provide opportunities for these kids in an exclusive environment for them,” says Ollila, junior at UWEC. “And accommodating and making sure that they’re included in dance and exploring a form of art like this.”

Twelve children and teens between the ages of 6 and 16 are a part of the inaugural class.

One of which includes 11-year old Dayne Hass who travels from Mondovi to attend.

“I come here and they light up my world,” says Averi Bohman, volunteer and Blugold student. “They make everything so fun and Dayne’s so sweet.”

The class operates in a 2-to-1 Blugold-to-dancer ratio allowing for the dancers get the time and attention they need to be successful.

A mutually beneficial experience Bohman calls it.

“It’s really rewarding seeing how much they enjoy it...puts a smile on their face, puts a smile on my face.”

The class has been learning choreography for weeks, culminating in a final recital April 18.

“Just watching him dance and see all of the strides that he’s made and all the progress he’s made is just phenomenal because I wouldn’t have imagined this a few years ago,” says Krista Hass, Dayne’s mom.

“I couldn’t be happier with how many kids have joined...and all the response from parents has been amazing and nothing but thanks, and I can’t give them enough thanks myself,” says Ollila.

A class with pride written all over it.

P.R.I.D.E.

The student-led and faculty-supported community outreach program allows for a judgment free zone, and the chance for individuals with disabilities to express themselves.

The program is an extension of the existing P.R.I.D.E. organization on campus, which stands for physical activity and recreation for individuals with disabilities in the Eau Claire area.

The profits from the April 18 recital at Pablo Center will go back into the program allowing the organization to continue offering the class to families free of cost.

To purchase tickets, see here.

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