The Story of ComMotion
ComMotion was founded in 2018 by a cancer survivor and disabled veteran who found health and happiness through learning to dance and wanted to give that same opportunity to others in need. The organization has been steadily growing and since 2018 has taught over 350 dance and movement classes for more than 12,000 people of all ages and abilities, including military veterans, cancer survivors, seniors, kids, and people with disabilities. We have had students from preschool age to over 90 years old, and with a wide range of physical and cognitive abilities.
ComMotion is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization based in North Carolina. We teach in-person and online classes across the country.
Dance and movement have been proven in numerous studies to have a variety of health and wellness benefits:
- “Let’s Dance: A Holistic Approach to Treating Veterans with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder” by the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System found that a dance-class program promoted well-being, self-confidence, and stress reduction for veterans with PTSD.
- “A dance intervention for cancer survivors and their partners (RHYTHM)” by the University of Alabama at Birmingham found that Ballroom dance may be an important tool for cancer survivors to return to a physically active life and improve quality of life.
- In “Leisure Activities and the Risk of Dementia in the Elderly” by the Albert Einstein School of Medicine, dancing was the only physical activity to offer protection against dementia.
- “Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth” by the National Endowment for the Arts found that children and teenagers who participated in arts education programs have shown more positive academic and social outcomes.
Andre Avila - Artistic Director
Andre Avila, dance instructor and owner/founder of Rhythm Journey Dance Company was born in Bogotá, Colombia where his ballet, jazz, and tap training began at the age of eight. Later, he expanded his repertoire to include South American folkdance and traditional Latin social dances. Training in rhythm and smooth ballroom dance began when Andre moved to the US in 2003. Since that time, he has taught and competed professionally with studios in Las Vegas, New York, Massachusetts, and North Carolina, specializing in rhythm and smooth ballroom with additional proficiencies in Argentine Tango, West Coast Swing, Hustle, Kizomba, and Flamenco.
Andre is passionate about making dance accessible to everyone. He has been an instructor for ComMotion since 2017. He is also an instructor for Wake Tech, the American Dance Festival's Parkinson's Movement Initiative, and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Duke University. He is certified to teach the American Dance Wheels Foundation Wheel One Bronze wheelchair ballroom syllabus and has the National Exercise Trainers Association Senior Fitness Specialty Certification.
Katherine Hayes - Instructor
Katherine Hayes, a dance instructor and owner of Adore Real Talent, started her journey with two specific songs: “Mambo Number 5” by Lou Bega and “Prawy do lewego” by Bregovic & Kayah in her Grandmother's kitchen at the age of 5. Ever since, dancing has been a part of her life and her greatest joy. She studied ballet, modern and jazz for 5 years and wanted to broaden her horizons and went on to explore belly dance, Bollywood, and finally, ballroom dance. While in high school she would practice ballroom dance with every moment she could find, till one day she decided to become a dance teacher. In 2014 she started teaching at Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Fairfax, Virginia. After teaching there for 3½ years, she started her own business and has taught independently ever since. She specializes in American Style Smooth and Rhythm along with Salsa, Hustle, and Argentine Tango. With her students she has performed many showcases and competitions, including Ohio Star Ball and Virginia State. In addition she has had great opportunities to perform at events such as the DC’s Dancing with the Stars Gala for three consecutive years and won the Judges’ Choice award twice. Living in Raleigh, NC since 2017 she is excited to share her knowledge, joy and passion of ballroom dance with everyone she meets! Katherine has been an instructor with ComMotion since 2019.
Carla Perkins - Instructor
A birthday gift and rhinestones – the launch of an obsession. Well, more accurately the furthering of one. It likely started with picking up a musical instrument around the age of three, continued through the typical early age dance classes, and expanded through a many years love affair with musical training and a strong affinity for Appalachian style clogging (it’s loud, obnoxious, and fun – a perfect fit!) all enjoyed through her college years. Enter the introduction to ballroom dancing (and all of its sparkles!) a few years later, and she was eternally hooked. Carla thrives on challenges which are plentiful in the world of partner dancing – teaching novice dancers how to connect with their body and develop stronger agency over it and to connect with their partner for mutual success on the floor, developing students into confident performers and successful competitors (earning top student and top amateur couple titles), and continuing to acquire skill and knowledge in her own dancing through training with world champion coaches, performing with talented professional partners, and absorbing all things rhythmical movement whenever possible. The most cherished reward from her efforts however is simply receiving the reflection of joy her students experience through the power of movement paired with the magic of music.
You’ll often find her on the dance floor at Danceformation, Inc. – otherwise she’s occupied in her hair salon or snuggling with her fur babies. She looks forward to dancing with you soon!
Raquel Reynolds - Instructor
Raquel Reynolds started dancing at the age of 3 with ballet, tap, jazz and hip hop. She transitioned over to ballroom, swing, latin and country western when she turned 19 as an amateur but went professional at the age of 22. After competing in ballroom, hustle and swing for a few years, she finally started teaching and eventually opened her own studio in 2006. In the studio setting, she trained wedding couples, social dancers, competitive dancers and even used her personal training certification for group fitness classes.
Her competitive career is quite extensive resulting in 6 World Championship titles in couples and line dance. She is currently one of three Superstar line dancers active in the United States. Other titles include top choreographer, open routine classic swing, Jack and Jill titles and strictly swing top wins as well. In addition to competing, she trains dancers around the country in line dance and provides custom choreography for showcase dances and competitive couples.
Currently, she has a home dance studio where she instructs a huge variety of dancers and trains for her own dancing as well. She teaches 22 styles of dance in this location. She lives with her husband and his two children, plus they are expecting their first child in February of 2020. She enjoys landscaping where she uses her degree in horticulture and entomology, plays tennis and a variety of other sports with her husband and family, volunteering weekly at the local SPCA animal shelter and enjoying life.
She wants everyone to know that it doesn’t matter how you move, just as long as you keep moving!
Alberto Barrantes - Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative Fellow
Alberto Barrantes Ceciliano is a journalist from Costa Rica. He holds a Master's degree in Public Administration from the University of Costa Rica. He is an entrepreneur passionate about education. He is motivated by the power of stories to connect realities and empower children as agents of change in their communities. Alberto writes children's stories, coordinates storytelling workshops in urban and rural schools in his country and he is the author of the blog 'Cambio Educativo', in La Nación newspaper in Costa Rica. He is a member of the Ibero-American Network of Young Leaders of the Carolina Foundation, Spain.
In 2016, he founded the organization Carretica Cuentera: a Costa Rican educational organization that creates contents and storytelling workshops to stimulate reading, creativity, imagination, critical thinking and problem solving in schools, based on the use of stories with open endings. This organization combines printed books with digital materials for the development of skills necessary for the 21st century, such as: reading, creative writing, teamwork and generation of creative content / solutions.
Carretica Cuentera website and links to social networks:
Shanna LeBlanc - Practicum Student
Shanna LeBlanc is an Army Veteran and a current Recreational Therapy major at Clemson University. She loves helping others and volunteering for organizations. Although she is not a dancer, she wants to have fun with everyone in the classes and learn to dance together with them. She wants everyone around her to enjoy life and to have fun. She also enjoys a variety of crafts such as knitting, crocheting, spinning and dying yarn and is an avid animal lover.