HomeHaddonfield NewsDancing to the rhythm of the beat

Dancing to the rhythm of the beat

Dance Haddonfield continues to teach ballroom dance to the blind and visually impaired

Dance instructor Gene LaPierre leads blind and visually impaired students in ballroom dance during their 10-week program earlier this year. (Special to The Sun)

Dance Haddonfield partnered in April and June with the Haddonfield area Lions Club and Bestworks Industries to put on a 10-week dance program for the blind and visually impaired.

The inspiration for the partnership came when Joe Murphy, founder of Dance Haddonfield, attended a Lions Club meeting and heard a mom speak about her two blind sons and their ability to nonetheless thrive and enjoy life.

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“As I thought of that, I thought, ‘There’s no better way to connect with life and enjoy life by dancing,’” Murphy recalled. “So I thought, ‘You know, this is something I could help bring to this picture.’”

He discussed the idea with then Lions’ President Bill Brown, and along with Bestworks Industries in Cherry Hill – a major employer of the visually impaired –  sought out individuals with the impairment interested in learning ballroom dance.

Murphy also brought on board Gene LaPierre, a Washington Township resident with a dance studio in Glassboro called Ballroom Dancing for a Better U. He works with people of all ages, including students with disabilities. 

“I had a good beginning, because I’ve been working with special needs adults for six to seven years,” LaPierre explained. “Going to the visually impaired, I did have to communicate better. Instead of them visually seeing it, I really had to break it down as far as words.”

Those clients also listened to the sound of LaPierre’s feet hitting the floor to create the same rhythm and beat, and they learned a variety of ballroom and Latin dances like waltz, rumba, cha cha and bachata. 

“I think people who have disabilities, it’s limitless – they can do anything they want to do,” LaPierre maintained. “They just have to go out and do it. The basic concept of ballroom dancing is walking to music, so if you can move, and even with the wheelchair dancing, it’s the same concept. 

“It can be done by anybody.”

While the Lions, Dance for Haddonfield and Bestworks found dancers for their program, the real challenge was transportation. But the effort by volunteers to provide that was also a rewarding one, as car rides provided more time to get to know people.

“For me, (one of the) most impactful (things about the experience) was the effect the program had on us as Lions as we drove people home and talked to them in our cars …” said Lions Club President Larry Melton. 

Another 10-week ballroom and Latin dance program for the blind and visually impaired will be held at Grace Church in Haddonfield on Wednesday evenings, beginning Sept. 13.

For more information about the program, visit http://dancehaddonfield.org/ or www.haddonfieldlions.org. To get involved with either dancing as a blind or visually impaired person or to be a driver, contact Joe Murphy at Jemurphy5730@gmail.com.


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