The “Just For Me” Annual Dance Recital Honoring Dorothy The Dinosaur Is Coming June 6th

Just For Me’s annual dance recital is going to be held at The Dance Factory on Saturday, June 6th at 10:30 am. Just For Me is a school of dance founded by Francita Meaux, who experienced a true calling to dance as a child of 10, is now in her ‘60s, and she is still going strong. However, her dances are dedicated to the glory of God, and most recently she has developed an approach to dance that is just for special needs kids and adults. She has students with all kinds of challenges; Downs, Asperger’s, Autism, and the aftermath of physical and chemical brain trauma.

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This year’s recital theme is a pajama birthday party in honor of Dorothy the Dinosaur. The studio is going to be decorated like a back yard, and will sport a white picket fence, butterflies, flowers, and perhaps some surprises. The kids will wear pajamas for their costumes for the “Dorothy Dance,” and ALL children are encouraged to wear pajamas to the event. The recital will also be interactive, that is, all kids who are attending the recital as guests will be invited at times to participate with the kids who are performing. No previous dance experience required!

For those of you who are not familiar with Dorothy the Dinosaur, she showed up as a kids’ show character almost 20 years ago. As you can see from the invitation, Dorothy fancies herself a ballerina. She also is permanently five years old. “Celebrating” Dorothy’s birthday is going to be the perfect venue for the dancers to “strut their stuff,” and each member of Miss Fran’s dance troupe will have a solo. Sarah Valenzuela and Laikan Wolanzyk are the two young women who help Miss Fran, and she is quick to note that she couldn’t do what she does at Just For Me without them.
The details of the interactive venue are still being hammered out, but will include “the wiggles,” (the kids’ favorite), froggie jumps, and rabbit hops as part of the warm up. Besides improving motor skills, “the wiggles” and the rest of the activities also increase muscle strength, and help with weight management. This is especially important for children who struggle with Downs Syndrome, who are often overweight.

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Four years ago, when Miss Fran first began to put together the Just For Me dance school, she sought the help of educational professionals whose life’s work is to teach special needs children. She reached out to the Athens Public Schools, and received a great deal of help from the Special Education Department. “They hammered out the parameters and definitions, and I learned a lot,” she told me. Francita began through trial and error to find out what her students were capable of, and “Just For Me” began to take shape.

I had the pleasure of attending last year’s recital, and it was truly inspiring. Earlier this month, Miss Fran’s adult student, Sheri Magnusson danced a solo performance at the Relay for Life fundraiser held at the Sportsplex. Sheri was the only four decade cancer survivor at the event, having triumphed over leukemia as a child, and “She danced beautifully,” Miss Fran said, and added, “I was so proud of her.” Miss Fran stood down in front of the stage and coached, as she always does, by “mirroring” the choreography while Sheri danced.

5-15-2015 11-28-12 AMFor this year’s June 6th performance, “The local schools have posted the invitation for the recital on their website, and the plan is for them to print them out, personalize them, and give them to the kids,” Fran said.

Fran has a dream, and that is that the Just For Me school of dance grow, and thus better serve the special needs community of Athens Limestone County. Stated a different way, she wants to “expand Just For Me’s outreach.” One of the things that gives her great satisfaction after her hard work and long hours is watching her students grow in their dance skills, as well as personally. “We are going to celebrate their accomplishments, and invite the community to join us,” she said.

“Come on out and see what is possible,” says Fran. And, she added, “Come see and then let your child experience the joy of dancing.” That is an invitation I am planning on accepting, and hope you will, too.

The Just For Me dance recital will be held on Saturday, June 6th at 10:30 am at the Dance Factory, located at 1432 Freeman Avenue, Athens, AL 35613. For more information, please call 256-998-6382, or email Fran at Admission is free. There will be refreshments served after the recital is over at noon.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

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