Dancing Towards Healing 4

Dignity Health Foundation offers hope to stroke survivors through dance.

Anyone who has ever glided across a dance floor or danced at a wedding (or even alone in the living room) can tell you that dancing makes you smile. Sometimes (and I speak from experience) the worse you dance the bigger you smile! Dancing wakes up a hidden part of your soul and often brings people together in unique and personal ways.

Dance can also be healing.

That’s precisely what Dignity Health Foundation is working so diligently to facilitate through programs like its dance class for stroke survivors. Every Tuesday a dance team comprised of 15 survivors meets in the Arizona Ballroom Champions Dance Studio in Tempe to dance, at no cost, to the participants.

“If you have the money, you can do anything you want, but I’m trying to start philanthropic programs that make sense for everyone so people don’t get left out,” says Rex Albright, development officer for Dignity Health Foundation East Valley. “Dancing is free so anyone can participate. To me that’s what community health care is all about.”


The dance program evolved from a class offered at Dignity Health Foundation East Valley’s Stroke Camp that takes place twice a year. Terri Lamb, a volunteer and community liaison and Shawn Nerdahl, owner of Arizona Ballroom Champions, were inspired to take the class one step further.

“We need more of this. We need this all the time,” says Lamb.

A group of caretakers and volunteers collaborated to create the weekly dance program and they have been dancing their way to happiness ever since. The foundation supports several programs designed to heal, inspire and encourage people to not just live life, but to enjoy and experience it to the fullest.

What they have found is that often the social interaction in the dance class is more important than the actual movement. It gives participants a sense of connection with others and a support system of likeminded survivors.

“Dignity Health is supporting community health,” says Albright. “It’s not just about helping someone who has a symptom. What we want to do is offer hope. There is hope after stroke.”

Moving Forward

Dignity Health also offers several programs for people struggling to dance their way through life’s challenges so they can move forward, including caretakers, diabetics and people who have had hip or joint replacements. They even have programs for new mothers.

“What we want to accomplish is getting your soul and mind together for the healing process,” Albright says. “Once we get your heart right, you can focus on healing you.”

A large number of the programs have spun from ideas shared by community members and philanthropic, volunteer-minded individuals who are inspired to help others.

“Our mission as a foundation is to work with our community and hospital to make healing meaningful,” says Albright. “If you have any ideas on what more we could be doing in the East Valley, please let us know.”

If you or a loved one or friend is a stroke survivor and would like to join the team, the ballroom doors are always open and dancers are being accepted.

Author and visionary Vivian Greene, who famously said “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain,” also said, “Giving is the highest expression of our power.” 

Learn more about how to get involved with Dignity Health Foundation East Valley at SupportDignityHealthEastValley.org. For information about the dance program, contact Rex Albright at 480.728.2036.