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Blind Dancers Are Having Fun!

By Jay Nachman
Contributing Author
Photos by Debbie Troy
USA Dance Volunteers Help Enjoy a Healthy Pastime

Blind and visually impaired dancers from throughout Greater Philadelphia have begun jitterbugging, cha cha-ing and foxtrotting while enjoying the benefits of social dance with help from volunteers with by Dance Haddonfield, the Delaware Valley chapter of USA Dance.

“It was fun to learn. I actually wanted to learn ballroom dancing and it was really good,” said Patti Cole, a 64-year-old Haddonfield resident who has retinitis pigmentosa. “It’s definitely a good way to get some exercise and try something new. I don’t really let things stop me from doing what I want to do even though I’m visually impaired.

“You are much more limited in certain physical activities, so I did enjoy trying something like that that I haven’t tried before,” she said.

Due to start again in the spring, last fall participants met on Wednesday nights at Grace Church in Haddonfield for weekly lessons.

Joe Murphy, a board member of Dance Haddonfield, said the program was initiated to bring joy and a healthy pastime to the blind and visually impaired. The program, he said, can be replicated by other USA Dance chapters.

Dance Haddonfield partnered with the Haddonfield Lions Club on the program.

To teach the dancers-to-be, Dance Haddonfield recruited Gene LaPierre, owner and artistic director of LaPierre Ballroom Dance Studio of Glassboro and who teaches dance at Rowan University. LaPierre is the founder of Ballroom Dancing for a Better U, a nonprofit organization devoted to sharing the idea that ballroom dancing can bring important positive changes in the lives of every individual. He specializes in teaching dancing for those with disabilities and has experience teaching ballroom dance to groups of visually impaired and blind people.

The Haddonfield Lions Club, which focuses on services to the blind and visually impaired, has a relationship with Bestwork Industries for the Blind in Cherry Hill. With Bestwork’s support, seven dancers were identified and enrolled in the prototype program held in the spring of 2023. They were joined by others in the local blind and visually impaired community. Those dancers continued their lessons during a fall session.

Dance Haddonfield and the Haddonfield Lions Club also provided transportation to and from the weekly dance lessons along with free snacks and refreshments.

In the classes, the student dancers all join hands and LaPierre provides clear verbal instructions. Guided by the music and the instructions, the dancers learn the steps to different dances. Dancers then separate into pairs and learn to dance just as they would on any dance floor.

Some program participants enjoyed social dancing so much that they attended Dance Haddonfield’s regular Sunday night dances.

“I always wanted to have a hobby and it is difficult to find a hobby that I’m able to participate in fully. I can do arts and crafts tactilely, but it’s been difficult to really find a fun and engaging activity that’s also physical activity,” said Nimit Kaur, 26, a Bellmawr, N.J. resident who works for the Camden County Health and Human Services Department. “I was glad to give it a try and I’m so glad I did.

“The trainer is very good with working with people who are visually impaired because when you can’t see you need descriptors. You need to know what that person is doing, and that person needs to really communicate in words and sometimes show the person how to do certain steps. I was glad that he was trained for this aspect,” said Kaur, who has been blind since birth with the condition of Leber congenital amaurosis. She added that volunteers would also step in to help the students.

The transportation provided by Dance Haddonfield and the Haddonfield Lions Club was more than helpful, Kaur said. It showed “they not only help build up this population, but they understand some of the challenges people who are blind and visually impaired face. I don’t know if I would have joined if they didn’t have rides. That would have made it more difficult for me to arrange a ride. That really helped a lot.”

Dance Haddonfield and the Haddonfield Lions Club plan to share the program model with other Lions Clubs and USA Dance chapters who can then bring the joy of dance to the blind and visually impaired in their communities.

About the Haddonfield Lions Club

The Haddonfield Lions Club sponsors five major community service projects and conducts five fundraisers. All of the money raised goes to the Haddonfield Lions Foundation, which donates over $30,000 each year to worthy community causes, sight preservation projects and to those in need.

About Lions Clubs International

Lions International represents Lions Clubs International and Lions Clubs International Foundation. Lions take on some of the greatest challenges facing our communities and the world through the service of 1.4 million members in 49,000 clubs and the grant-funding support of our foundation. We improve health and well-being, strengthen communities and support those in need, locally and globally. At Lions International we are serving a world in need. Learn more about who we are and what we do at

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