Dance your heart out with the Unity Dance Collective and their special needs hip-hop class


(Update: Adding video, comments by dance class teacher, participants)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) — Once a week, in a space off Highway 20 in Bend, the Unity Dance Collective holds a special needs teen hip-hop class. The studio has been open since September, and this recent class was just the fourth of many more planned in the future.

Dance teacher Ashley Gaona cherishes every moment with the class.

“The thing about this class is, they’re fearless,” Gaona said. “They’re super happy when they come to class. They love picking their own music. So we kind of do a nice mix and match. We kind of try to learn a little bit, do some freestyle music education, kind of get a big mix of hip-hop as a whole.”

Gaona said the class was needed and wanted throughout the community.

“So we had a need in Central Oregon,” she said. “There were a lot of people that said that this type of class wasn’t offered, so we just got the kids in here that needed this class and just got going. Dance is amazing, so just get out there have fun, learn something new — anyone can do it.”

The students meet weekly on Wednesdays, and while this is only the fourth class, the impact is evident.

A student named Victoria said, “The teacher is kind of cool and nice and has taught different things to dance.”

The class allows the teens to be themselves, be with friends, learn new moves and overall gain a sense of belonging.

Maddie another student, noted, “I love the community, the community is amazing. The teachers are amazing.”

It’s an accepting environment where everyone is encouraged to try/

“I like the Macarena,” first-time student Finley noted.

Cameron, on the other hand, appeared to have many moves mastered, and says he’s been doing this a while.

“I just came from when I was younger, I danced every song I know — freestyles, robotics, and the ho-downs.”

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