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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Charity dance captures the heart

Nov 29, 2016 04:15PM ● By Rubina Halwani

The entire cast sits on the stage at the finale. (Rubina Halwani/City Journals)

By Rubina Halwani | [email protected]


The annual Art with Heart dance performance took place on Saturday, Nov. 5 at the Grand Theatre in Salt Lake City. Proceeds from the performance benefit Shriners Hospital for Children. Over 100 children from the Winner School in Holladay, Dance Impressions in Farmington, and the Dance Club in Orem gave a combined performance to raise funds to aid children with physical injuries.

The dancers, ranging from toddlers through high school aged, performed a combination of ballet, classical, improvisation and modern dance routines. In all, 35 performances graced the stage. Two shows were offered, an afternoon matinee and evening recital. Music, mood and costumes alternated for a variety of artistic and technical presentation.  

Art with Heart has been in production for over 15 years. The concept for the show began after a dance competition. The three dance companies gathered together to discuss the option of performing for a worthwhile cause. To date, the benefit has raised approximately half a million dollars for the hospital. 

“There was a dance teacher at the Dance Club who had a child with cerebral palsy and was being treated at Shriners. When the family heard we were looking for a good cause, she suggested the hospital,” said Connie Saccomanno, director of the Winner School. 

Shriners Hospital was first founded in 1922. It has served injured children and their families for 90 years. The facility specializes in orthopedics, burns, spinal cord injuries and cleft lip and palate treatment. 

“We were so impressed with (what) the hospital does for children and they do it with no cost to the families,” Saccomanno said. “Our dance students, patients and parents that come to our show are all very grateful and excited to participate in this event. It is wonderful to see such love and teamwork and caring. It does make you realize how much good can be done when all are willing to participate and contribute. Caring for our kids is very rewarding and can really make our future more bright for so many.”

Seth Miller, interim director of the Grand Theatre, offered the venue rent-free for the event.

“We got lucky a few years ago with the Salt Lake Community College on State Street. We approached them to rent their facility and Seth Miller was so interested and helpful. He talked with the college officials and they, actually, host the event at no charge,” Saccomanno said. “That was huge for us because all that rent could be donated to the hospital. Even our teachers donate their time.”

Deserae Dorton, public relations specialist at Shriners, said, “Art with Heart is our largest community fundraiser.” 

Kadence Joy, a 10-year-old patient at the hospital, came on stage at the finale. She suffers from infantile scoliosis, a defect affecting the curvature of the spine, and has been with the hospital since the age of two. She thanked the audience for support for the hospital. An emotional crowd, in turn, gave her a standing ovation. She was also presented with a basket of red and pink paper hearts, as a show of continued commitment to the hospital.

“The students are given pink and red hearts that they sell, door to door, to relatives, at school, etc. for one dollar each or as much as anyone will donate. We write their names on the hearts. The weekend closest to Valentine’s Day we three studios and students and parents go to the hospital, where they have a light dinner for us and we spend the evening plastering hearts all over the lobby or designated area they give us,” Saccomanno said. “It looks amazing! The patients wake up the next day to hundreds of hearts pasted all over the windows, walls, etc. It is a very festive look and such fun for all involved!”

 Proceeds support Shriners “Un-limb-ited Progam,” a ski and snowboard camp for patients. This year 25 teens attended, a 32 percent increase from past years. The program also welcomed its first quadrilateral amputee skier, who hit the slopes despite the challenge of skiing on four partial limbs. For more information, visit