AZDance Group’s “Christmas Dance Concert”
Sunday, Jan. 4 at Cactus Shadows Fine Arts Center

December 24, 2008

The festive holiday season culminates on Sunday, Jan. 4 with AZDance Group’s final performance of its “Christmas Dance Concert” at 3 p.m. at Cactus Shadows Fine Arts Center, 33606 N. 60th Street, in north Scottsdale. Highlights from this year’s event include guest artist Astrit Zejnati, principal dancer of Ballet Arizona, professional dancers from AZDance Group, and seven dancers from its Movement E-Motion dance program. Tickets range from $10 for seniors and students to $15 for adults. Admission for children under 10 is free.

Kenda Newbury, artistic director of AZDance Group, said. “This concert is great for all ages. It is inspirational and uplifting due to our dancers’ versatility, emotion and professionalism.”

While the entire performance is mesmerizing, audience members will be inspired by AZDance Group’s Movement E-motion (MEM) students, a program for teens and adults with special needs.

“Unfortunately, there is nothing in Arizona for people with different abilities who are allowed to go to high school or are called ‘adults,’” Newbury said. “I wanted to give something meaningful to these wonderful teens and adults that they would cherish - not only the training in all styles of dance or working within a professional dance environment, but the overall self-worth, self-satisfaction and interaction that they all experience and grow from.”
Brian and Maura Carroll, of Cave Creek, can attest to how the MEM program has helped their two daughters who have Downs Syndrome, Katie, 20, and Tham, 17. Katie is a graduate of Cactus Shadows High School and Tham is in her senior year.

Katie has been dancing with MEM for four years; Tham for three years. Brian Carroll said both enjoy working very hard in a disciplined environment led by professionals and volunteer dancers.

“The changes we have seen in both girls since they started working with MEM are extraordinary. Their self discipline and pride in their work shows up in building the self confidence to try other new things,” Carroll said. “In the last two years, both Katie and Tham have spent a week each rafting on the Snake River in Utah with others having similar abilities, something neither would have done without the benefit of the MEM experience. The program has opened so many doors we didn’t initially expect.”

Carroll hopes the community will continue to support AZDance Group and MEM throughout the year. “Learn how you can support this wonderful program. It’s a priceless experience for everyone.”

Tickets to the Jan. 4 “Christmas Dance Concert” can be purchased at Plus Gifts, Anthem Community Center, Our Kitchen to Yours, and at the door via cash or check. Call (480) 215-1916 or visit

Courtesy Photo: AZDance Group’s principal dancer, Katherine McDonnell