“What can we do?”
That is the question that Kalaa asked herself, when thinking of how she could use dance to help increase awareness for autism, and raise funds for a local autism association.
Kalaa is a professional belly dancer who specializes in classical Egyptian and cabaret styles; she performs at events, teaches weekly classes, and holds intensive workshops. In 2007, Kalaa’s son (who is now eight years old) was diagnosed with PDD(NOS) (Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified), which is on the autism spectrum.
In December of 2009, Kalaa began planning the first Day of Dance for Autism; April is Autism Awareness Month, therefore Kalaa set the date for the first event for April of 2010. The event was a wonderful success, raising nearly $3000 for the Autism Society, Tidewater Virginia (TASA). This was the top fundraising event of 2010 outside of the TASA organization.
After diagnosis, Kalaa said that families have so many questions: “What does this mean? Where do we go from here?” She feels TASA is such a tremendous resource and support for families affected by autism spectrum disorders, offering family training and information.
This Saturday, April 23, is the 2nd Annual Day of Dance for Autism, with the proceeds again benefiting TASA. Last year’s show had belly dance performances, as well as a performance of Polynesian style dance. This year, she said, the show “just keeps getting bigger.” The event will include performances in belly dance, two Polynesian style dances, a Michael Jackson tribute performer, hip hop and breakdance performances, a vocalist, and more. Representatives from the Autism Society, Tidewater Virginia will be speaking and providing information about autism. Miss Preteen Virginia Beach, whose pageant platform is autism, will also be in attendance.
Kalaa is thrilled with the growth of the event this year. “The community support has been overwhelming,” she said.
This article was originally published on AltDaily in April of 2011.