P.R.I.D.E Dance will continue under a new director

Published: Mar. 10, 2023 at 2:50 AM CST
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -Clapping, leaping, and sassy walk are just a few of the dance moves the 13 dancers with the group P.R.I.D.E, a dance group for individuals with disabilities, will be showing off at their upcoming recital.

The director of the group, a University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire undergrad, started the group herself.

“I started the group last winter,” P.R.I.D.E Director, Baillie Ollila, said. “I kinda have been working with Dr. Marquell Johnson at the university through his P.R.I.D.E program and just trying to figure out which ways we can bring the fine art of dance to this adapted physical activity setting.”

With a year of experience under her belt Ollila said the program has created new opportunities for UW-Eau Claire students.

“A lot has changed, “ Ollila said. “I mean we’ve grown volunteer wise, we opened up volunteer applications to the whole college of education and human sciences, so we have a wide variety of volunteers.”

One of those volunteers is Emma Wagner, a second year student majoring in rehabilitation science. She will be taking over as director next year.

“As I did it throughout the two semesters I totally fell in love,” Wagner said. “I used to teach dance in my hometown and I miss it so much. I miss working with kids and when I heard that she needed someone to take over I just really wanted to, I was hoping it was me.”

Wagner said her favorite part of the program is seeing students groove out.

“It is very powerful in a way that it’s fun and it’s something that anyone can do no matter what,” Wagner said. “I mean dance is dance, anything can be dance.”

One of the dancers is in agreement. When asked if she liked to dance, 8-year-old Violet Yang responded with some killer moves.

While 14-year-old dancer, Elliott Ivory, was most excited to perform for his dad.

Ollila said the best part of her role is seeing the growth of her students.

“I mean they walk in day one and they are so nervous and then you see them hit the stage,” Ollila said. “I mean last year was incredible having 208 people in the audience watching these kids just blossom.”

Overall, she said the goal of the program is to build a community.

“Populations with disabilities is an underserved and marginalized group and I think promoting a group like P.R.I.D.E Dance, or even P.R.I.D.E for Kids, P.R.I.D.E for Adults is huge and making sure that programs like this exist,” Ollila said.

P.R.I.D.E Dance has a spring show on Monday, March 13. at the Pablo Center at 6 p.m. Tickets cost $13 and can be purchased here. Ollila said proceeds will go towards supporting P.R.I.D.E Dance next year.