NEW PALESTINE — Light and sound streamed out of the small windows of the dance studio, followed by bursts of applause breaking the quiet of a recent summer night on the county’s southwest side.
Stomps and the clicking of shoes, made by people dancing the same steps simultaneously, ended with cheers as the members of the Luminosity dance team finished their rehearsal.
The team, which comprises about 30 adults with intellectual disabilities, participates in clogging lessons at Hearts Ablaze Clogging near New Palestine through the efforts of Carlie Dahlquist, a senior at Greenfield-Central High School and one of the dance troupe’s most experienced cloggers.
Dahlquist, 17, has also been a dancer with Hearts Ablaze Cloggers for more than a decade and in recent months turned her talents toward philanthropy. She has taken the lead, organizing and teaching a clogging class to people with intellectual disabilities; thanks to her raising $600 to cover the cost of glue-on taps and matching T-shirts, her energetic participants enjoy the workshops for free.
Story continues below gallery
The group has practiced once a week since June and will perform with the Hearts Ablaze Cloggers at the upcoming Riley Festival, which kicks off Oct. 6.
Dahlquist said the idea to offer free workshops came after a positive experience working in her high school’s peer-tutoring program, a class that partners students with and without disabilities.
“The people in my peer-tutoring class all had such good outlooks on life,” she said. “They don’t let their disability keep them from being happy and spreading their joy.”
Dahlquist teaches the clogging lessons alongside Ellie Roudebush, a junior at New Palestine High School. The teens have been dancing together most of their youth and were part of a group that took home the top prize in the 2016 Indiana State Fair talent contest.
Roudebush remembers her friend approaching her about the possibility of offering their know-how to people who might not otherwise have the chance to know the joys of dance.
“I said, ‘That’s like the best idea ever,’” Roudebush remembered.
Dahlquist began reaching out to local organizations that serve people with disabilities, and those conversations ultimately put her in touch with Sara Tucker.
Tucker serves as residential director at Developmental Service Alternatives Inc., which owns and runs 16 group homes for adults with developmental disabilities in central Indiana.
Tucker enthusiastically approved of the idea for a clogging class, she said. She tries to organize low-cost or free activities for her residents every day, and Dahlquist’s idea was a perfect fit, she said.
Part of Dahlquist’s plan included purchasing glue-on taps and inexpensive athletic shoes for every participant, because tap shoes can be pricey, she said. Area businesses helped with expenses.
The participants in the class vary in age and have different abilities and challenges, but their young teachers are happy to adapt to their needs.
One participant, for example, is deaf, so her instructors write notes back and forth with her and invite her to watch their feet while they demonstrate a dance, Dahlquist said.
At a recent practice for the group on Cristy Corwin-Howard’s farm, which doubles as headquarters for the troupe, the dancers practiced the routine to “Everybody Dance Now” by C+C Music Factory.
Chris Gillard, one of members of the group, loves nothing better than moving to the beat. He’s clogged before, he said, and enjoys the energetic movements. The most exciting part about this performance is that he has a solo, he said.
Sitting outside the dance studio during a recent rehearsal, Dahlquist’s parents marveled at the difference she’s making in the lives of her students.
“It’s incredible, it’s so much fun to watch,” said her father, Chris Dahlquist, sitting alongside her mother, Tera Dahlquist, and Corwin-Howard.
Carlie Dahlquist’s parents have always been proud of her accomplishments as a dancer and as a student, but Chris Dahlquist considers raising the money for the participants to dance for free her greatest accomplishment so far.
For the student-turned-teacher, however, the best part is developing genuine friendships with the people she’s instructing, she said.
“I always look forward to Luminosity practice,” she said. “Everyone has great attitudes and wants to be here having fun together.”
The Hearts Ablaze Cloggers and Luminosity, a dance troupe that caters to those with disabilities, will perform next week at the Riley Festival.
The two groups will dance at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 8 at the H.J. Ricks Center for the Arts, 122 W. Main St., Greenfield. Those who attend should plan to arrive by 6 p.m.