Founded as a nonprofit, For the Love of Dance isn’t your typical dance studio. It doesn’t focus on recitals or competitions. Rather, the focus is on the community.
“In place of recitals or competitions, we do community events,” explains founder Shamira Cummings-Arita of the group’s pre-recorded performances with themes like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or Annie that feature local community leaders. “I want to give my dancers a dual perspective about dance. They grow themselves but they also have the ability to change the lives of those around them.”
And this past year, Cummings-Arita has taken that mission to change others’ lives even further with the introduction of adaptive dance classes for aspiring dancers with special needs.
“This all started with one little girl: Willa,” she says. “I was giving her private classes, and she is such a ray of sunshine. She is so loving and attentive. Then I realized that there are other kids out there who deserve the same opportunity.”
In the years prior, Cummings-Arita had worked with children with special needs through a charter school based out of Los Angeles. This early experience allowed her to develop games and activities perfect for students of all abilities, as well as put into place protocols to make everyone comfortable, allowing them to grow in their creativity.
“We made the studio wheelchair accessible, and we invite aides to be part of at least the first few classes to help the dancers get used to the classes,” Cummings-Arita notes. “Creative expression is such a huge deal for all kids. It allows them to express themselves in ways that make sense to them. They take a deep dive into what they know and what they see.”
Following COVID-19 safety protocols, For the Love of Dance’s classes are back up and running. And between games and dance exercises, Cummings-Arita is working to bring in other creative influences. For this season’s drive-in performance, dancers are also learning a thing or two about acting, as Theatre Baton Rouge partners with the For the Love of Dance family.
“It’s all about teamwork and cultivating a loving family that spreads throughout the city,” Cummings-Arita says. “Dance is an outlet. There are no wrong answers. No consequences. I am so glad that we get to give this experience to all kids, because they all deserve it.”
To learn more about For the Love of Dance and to sign up for classes, visit fortheloveofdance.org.