Camden County offers disABILITIES Dance Classes


Courtesy of

Camden County offers disABILTIES Dance Class’s sponsored by the Camden County Board of Commissioners.

As an art form, dance allows individuals to embody their emotions and express themselves. Camden County offers the disABILTIES Dance Class sponsored by the Camden County Board of Commissioners for people with special needs and disABILITIES.
The professional dancers from another program called “Look Who’s Dancing” run the dance classes. Jean-Anne Principato and her sister Helene Lynch who are active in Pennsylvannia and New Jersey are in charge of “Look Who’s Dancing.” In the disABILTIES Dance Class program, they formed classes for those with special needs and for the geriatric. Principato, who is also working as a nurse, has been teaching dance for about 50 years and dancing for around 62 years. She fulfills her passion for dance by running dance classes.
“I work with geriatric patients [for] the most part…the special needs community…[is] just amazing to me. They’re the most honest, most grateful, most loving population that I have ever come in contact with. We probably learned a lot from them as they did for us,” said Principato.
To expand on accessibility, she teaches those with disabilities and special needs by making the classes very flexible. While traditional dance classes may focus more on the accuracy of steps, Principato organizes her classes based on the dancers’ skill level and what they are able to do.
“With the special needs community…our big thing is…inclusiveness because it’s very hard to find what they call a traditional dance class…for a special needs child to fit in…the way we describe the program is that ‘you can’t do it wrong’…it’s very adaptable,” she said.
Attending one of these classes through Zoom was truly a memorable experience. While enjoying the music being played and following Principato’s dance moves, the dancers’ were covered with bright smiles appreciating the moment. Everyone put their differences behind them and found a way to express themselves through dance in their own unique styles.
“I’ve been dancing all my life and when I got to do this special needs program over in Philly with my friend who invited me to do it, it was almost like I refell back in love with dance. It was a whole other reason to dance that they enjoyed…so much,” she said. “They had favorite songs that they wanted to [hear]…[and] the more excited they got, the more excited I got.”
Participating in the class over Zoom and seeing everyone dance together was a welcoming experience and felt different compared to other dance classes. Through this class, I not only learned some dance moves, but I also learned that dance isn’t always about how well you follow the steps, but the way you communicate your emotions and the memories/smiles that follow.
“It’s very important for us to greet everyone and start to learn everybody’s names that’s in that class…” a woman from the memory unit said, “I really believe it’s the hellos and the goodbyes and [when] we hi-five…it’s a very social experience as well for both the geriatric and the special needs,” she said.
In the near future, they are working towards hosting in-person classes, but also giving dancers the opportunity to attend these classes online. However, no matter where these dance classes take place, they leave a significant imprint on the lives of not only the participants, but also the community.
“Each program reaches them,” said Principato. “They feel connected, and they don’t feel judged, and they don’t feel that they can’t do it.”