Art of the dance has special meaning in this class

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Sam Hurst, in pink, and Anthony Galente, in gray, enjoy their dance class. PHOTO BY TOM MILLS

Like most 3-year-olds, Sam Hurst is always on the move. She loves to jump, dance and explore.

But not long ago, the Bluffton girl was unable to do those things.

Born with a rare genetic malformation called aicardi syndrome, Sam has multiple developmental challenges and is mostly nonverbal.

When Sam's early intervention specialist, Kimberly Reigert, suggested she join a dance class for special needs children, Sam's mother signed her up.

Reigert, who is also a dance instructor at the Bluffton School of Dance, said she and a couple of the other instructors came up with the idea for a special needs dance class. They named it Dance Without Limits, and Reigert has taught the class for the past three years.

"The fact that Kim does this and that (Bluffton School of Dance owner Dawn Miller) is supportive of it is amazing," Sam's mother, Sarah Hurst, said. "It's hard when you have a kid that has different things going on. We spend so much of our time focusing on her development, it's nice to just let her be a kid and play."

The 30-minute class is held at 11 a.m. every Saturday and aims to help children with socialization and motor skills.

Reigert said the class focuses on the individual needs of each student. She has taught children in wheelchairs, children with cerebral palsy, autism and other challenges.

The dance school offers free trials for Dance Without Limits so children can test out the class before signing up. Parents pay an annual fee of $75, and students can attend as many or as few Saturdays as they'd like.

"We understand that children with disabilities have a lot going on," Reigert said. "They have a lot of other bills that need to be paid."

Bluffton 2-year-old Anthony Galente, who has autism, also sees Reigert for early intervention services.

His mother, Maria Galente, had heard about the dance class from a friend so she mentioned it to Reigert before realizing she taught the class.

Maria was a little skeptical at first, but said her son has fit right in and really enjoys the class. She said it's a good release of energy, and Anthony loves the music. She said he never would sit still before attending the class. Now he sits with the other children, follows directions and mimics the teacher's behaviors.

"He thrives here," Maria said. "Kimberly has an ability with kids that is unreal. She was clearly made to work with special needs kids."

For more information, call Bluffton School of Dance at 843-815-2619.

Amy Coyne Bredeson of Bluffton is a freelance writer, a mother of two and a volunteer with the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance.

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