Dancers Unite to Raise Autism Awareness

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Corona del Mar students perform in last year’s HALO Dance for Autism show. — Photos by Conrad Boyse/Courtesy HALO Dance for Autism
Corona del Mar students perform in last year’s HALO Dance for Autism show.
— Photos by Conrad Boyse/Courtesy HALO Dance for Autism

Without actually saying a single word, the art of dance can speak volumes.

The Second Annual HALO Dance Show for Autism will have a lot to say on June 9  and Corona del Mar High School dance director Cami Marseilles hopes the audience will listen.

The performances will entertain, educate and enlighten the audience.

“It’s a celebration of dance… We’re all coming to appreciate each other’s work for a good cause,” Marseilles said. “It’s not just about raising funds for autism, it’s about raising awareness. And it’s about hope.”

HALO, or Healing Autism through Learning and Opportunities, is a local non-profit organization Marseilles started last year to help families with children with autism.

It’s a cause close to her heart.

It all started when her son, Kai, was 2 years old, and his speech was very limited. She got him assessed and at age 4 he was diagnosed with autism.

“It was a very emotional time,” she said. “It was a very hard time in my life… I went through denial.”

Parents may feel scared that their kids are going to get labeled, she said.

“The bottom line is, I had to dig deep and say, ‘This isn’t about me, or any labels, it’s about getting him help so he can overcome these things,’” she said.

He had early intervention, which has helped immensely, she said. She is thrilled with the progress Kai, now 5, has made, she commented.

She has good insurance and her parents have helped financially, she explained, but not everyone is that lucky.

More performers take the stage, dancing for Autism.
More performers take the stage, dancing for Autism.

After seeing positive results with alternative therapies that aren’t covered by insurance, she thought about families that didn’t have insurance or the financial ability to utilize that kind of help.

“I woke up in the middle of the night and I said, ‘That’s just not right,’” she said. “So I thought about what I could do to make a difference in the world and how I could use my talents in dance and all my friends in the dance industry and my students, and use dance to create awareness and raise money for autism.”

So in September of 2012 HALO was born.

The organization is an official 501c(3) and Marseilles started a HALO club for the Corona del Mar campus.

The charity’s mission is to “educate and serve children with autism to help them achieve their highest level of independence in their home, school and community through supportive therapies,” according to their website.

Last year was the first HALO dance event.

The show brings together CdMHS with other high school and college dance programs, and local professional studios.

“We all came together in a non-competitive environment,” she said, “we’re just here to share in the beauty of dance and raise money for autism.”

Many members of Orchesis, CdM school’s dance team, as well as other students, will be participating in the dance show.

“I’m also happy my students can use dance in a (charitable) way,” Marseilles said. “Taking their art and giving back to the world.”

Each studio or dance team will bring their own piece to perform. Also, in between every four videos, an educational video will be played

The dance pieces will range from ballet to hip-hop, along with a boys singing group.

“It’s an educational day, but also very entertaining,” Marseilles said.

Last year, they raise $25,000 and gave out $14,000 in scholarships, paying for things like doctor bills, alternative therapies, horseback riding classes, reading glasses, iPads, and more, for families that live in the Newport-Mesa area.

Returning to perform in the show again this year will be 17-year-old Matthew Kenslow, a high school senior with Asperger syndrome. He did a comedy act last time, Marseilles said.

“He was great,” she added.

Also during the evening, a stand up paddle board donated from Paddle Surf Warehouse will be raffled off.

“Please come and support the event,” and a great cause, she urged .

People can also make donations or sponsor a family with an autistic child to attend the event.

“It’s a day of art in dance, but also a day that will teach you about a very large problem in the world,” she said. “We need to educate so that we can get these kids services so that they can function… So they can shine and be the best self they can be.”

 

Tickets can be bought online at cdm.nmusd.us or ticket forms can be printed from halodance4autism.org and sent in.

HALO Dance for Autism 2012 show.
HALO Dance for Autism 2012 show.
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