Puma On The Beat: My Home Away From Home


Salazar, Fraikor and Elliot, founded the ACC Dance Club, Puma on the Beat

Plié! Allegro! Turn-out! Any age can make learning to dance seem like a hard process. The mind naturally generates a myriad of excuses for not doing it. However, Puma on The Beat is a fun group of dancers who want to share different dance styles and music amongst each other and is making it a little easier for students to learn.

Every Tuesday afternoon from 1:15 p.m.-2:30 p.m., Patty Adams, a gym staffer at Arapahoe Community College (ACC), devotes an hour and a half to teaching her love of dance to the students in Elevate, an inclusive higher education pathway for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Elevate was established seven years ago at ACC and is run by Jennifer Woegens, elevate director, Charity Aymami, elevate’s academic support professional and Anesha Correa, the campus and community engagement coordinator. Elevate is a comprehensive college experience that includes academic access in fully inclusive college courses, personal development and independent living skill building, engagement in social activities, and pre-vocationl training and support.

Each Elevate at ACC student develops and implements a unique program of study. Specific courses are chosen based on the abilities and competencies required for students to fulfill their stated academic and occupational goals. Additional support can range anywhere from student-centered planning, internship opportunities, peer mentoring support, self-determination and so much more.

Melissa Salazar, Gabby Fraikor and Caley Elliot, three ACC Elevate students who shared a passion for dancing, sought out an area away from the student lounge of the main building where they could display their unique dancing ability. This led to the discovery of ACC’s dance studio, located within their gym in the Annex building.

Fraikor states in an interview. “Patty started to teach dance in February 2023, because she says all dance styles need the basic skills.” Learning the fundamentals of ballet will help develop more advanced dance skills, such as tango, swing, hip-hop and many other styles. Adams is currently teaching the Elevate students the art of the Bollywood dancing style, putting an upcoming performance together to mark the end of the semester.

Puma on The Beat allows students to connect and share their passion for dance with people who come from a wide variety of dance levels. “After class, when we get to go to the clubs we selected at the start of the school year, including dance, is when our day is at it’s best,” says Elliot. 

What really caught my attention is the fact that, students have the freedom to create choreography that appeals to them,” says Adams, working to encourage students to discover their inner dancer. Patty, now the official instructor, is getting the chance to continue what she has found joy in.