Evening Magazine featured local Sea Gal and her special student
King5's Evening Magazine was in Lake Stevens on October 9 filming a private dance lesson at Pacific West Performing Arts. Also known as 'PacWest Dance', the studio is owned and operated by Kelly Charlton, who opened the Snohomish location in 2004. The Lake Stevens location will be celebrating its two-year anniversary come February.
Evening Magazine is featuring Charlton for two reasons: First, she is a Sea Gal, and we all know what the Seahawks have been up to this season. Second, she is doing something very special at PacWest.
Once a week for the past two years she has met with Lake Stevens resident Savannah Wilson. Wilson has Aicardi Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that is characterized by the absence of the corpus callosum, infantile spasms, and lesions on the retina. She is enrolled in the Life Skills program at Glacier Peak High School.
Wilson's mother, Sharon, contacted Charlton in 2011 asking if she would be willing to take on Savannah as a student. Charlton has over 20 year's experience as a dance educator but has never worked with a student requiring such specialized attention.
Wilson cannot see, cannot stand on her own due to scoliosis and osteoporosis, and has a significant developmental delay. She is able to communicate a bit verbally, but mostly experiences the world through sound and touch. Her seizures are controlled for the most part with medication, though an episode could occur at any time.
Charlton was excited for the challenge but well aware of her lack of experience. She visited Wilson several times at her Life Skills class to observe the teaching methods used by professional special educators. The biggest lesson she learned: be patient and be realistic.
Since that time Charlton and Wilson have fallen into a comfortable routine. When Wilson arrives at PacWest on Wednesday afternoons she finds her chair, changes into ballet slippers, then feels along the wall until she finds the ballet barre.
Charlton leads her through various ballet exercises including tendus, rond de jambes, and grande battements, and Wilson counts to 16 with each one. Sometimes She spontaneously breaks out in laughter, clapping and saying, "Good job Savannah!" And Charlton, now comfortable enough to poke fun at her student, will say, "I would have said that if you had let me!"
When Michael King of Evening Magazine interviewed Charlton, he asked, "Does Savannah know you're a Seahawks cheerleader?" Her response was: "Her parents have told her, but that doesn't really matter, does it? When we're together we're teacher and student."
The story of Charlton and Wilson aired on Friday, November 1 on King 5. You can learn more about PacWest by visiting the website, PacWestDance.com.