Therapy through rhythm: Dance instructor helps heal at Circle of Hope 

Instructor Ingrid Blanco of D'Wilfri Dance, left, leads a dance class for clients at the Circle of Hope in Newhall on Wednesday, 011724. Dan Watson/The Signal
Instructor Ingrid Blanco of D'Wilfri Dance, left, leads a dance class for clients at the Circle of Hope in Newhall on Wednesday, 011724. Dan Watson/The Signal
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Ingrid Blanco believes in dancing. 

She believes in it so much that she’s using it as a therapy tool for cancer patients at Circle of Hope. Once a month, Blanco teaches a dancing class at Circle of Hope that she hopes brings balance to those seeking it. 

“Dancing is all about balance, it’s all about self-awareness,” Blanco said. “It gives you more confidence to understand your body, to understand your surroundings. There are so many ways dancing can help you, not just mentally but physically and spiritually.” 

It was just about a year ago that Blanco was approached by Circle of Hope at a separate function, and when asked if she could do a class focusing on dance therapy, she immediately said yes. 

For Blanco, who has been dancing for more than 24 years and owns D’Wilfri DanceArt and Entertainment in Valencia, the act of dancing is a therapeutic experience that doesn’t require people to understand the intricacies of the movements — they just have to try it. 

Instructor Ingrid Blanco of D'Wilfri Dance, left, and Linda Malerba dance to Salsa music during a dance class for clients at the Circle of Hope in Newhall on Wednesday, 011724.  Dan Watson/The Signal
Instructor Ingrid Blanco of D’Wilfri Dance, left, and Linda Malerba dance to Salsa music during a dance class for clients at the Circle of Hope in Newhall on Wednesday, 011724. Dan Watson/The Signal

“You can see on social media or television, like ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ and they think that I’m gonna put them upside down, and I won’t,” Blanco said while laughing. “It’s pretty much to move with the music, feel it and have fun. The most important thing is to have fun, and I take care of the rest.” 

Linda Malerba has been attending these classes for three months now and enjoys what Blanco is able to do with people who are not quite as comfortable on their feet as she is. 

“Ingrid is the best,” Malerba said. “She’s so patient and fun. Everybody comes in with a different skill level and you’re just here to have a good time.” 

Attending a class for the first time last week was Natalie Freiburger. She enjoyed how it took her away from any troubles in her life and allowed her to focus on what she was doing in the moment. 

“It was a class that brought me to a different place where I was totally focused on the steps and the dancing, and everything else in my mind just vanished,” Freiburger said. 

Instructor Ingrid Blanco of D'Wilfri Dance, left, and first-time attendee Lisa Jay practice the steps to Salsa music during a dance class for clients at the Circle of Hope in Newhall on Wednesday, 011724.  Dan Watson/The Signal
Instructor Ingrid Blanco of D’Wilfri Dance, left, and first-time attendee Lisa Jay practice the steps to Salsa music during a dance class for clients at the Circle of Hope in Newhall on Wednesday, 011724. Dan Watson/The Signal

The class itself worked like this: Blanco would begin with simple forward-and-back steps, then add a spin before wrapping things up some side-to-side movements. Once attendees were able to master — or at least get through — each step, Blanco had them put it all together to learn some traditional dances. 

Some of the dances that Blanco taught were the waltz, the salsa, the rumba and the cha cha. 

“It was a challenge,” Freiburger said, “but her encouragement and the encouragement of the other people in the class just kept me going.” 

As attendees would attempt to follow Blanco’s instructions, she would stop herself to make sure everyone was following along so as not to leave anyone behind. Whenever someone was having trouble with a step or a sequence, she would step in to, quite literally, walk them through it. 

Meanwhile, Blanco was making jokes throughout to keep the mood light, a key part of how she teaches dancing, she said. 

Instructor Ingrid Blanco of D'Wilfri Dance, right, and Natalie Freiburger have fun as they go over the steps to Salsa music during a dance class for clients at the Circle of Hope in Newhall on Wednesday, 011724.  Dan Watson/The Signal
Instructor Ingrid Blanco of D’Wilfri Dance, right, and Natalie Freiburger have fun as they go over the steps to Salsa music during a dance class for clients at the Circle of Hope in Newhall on Wednesday, 011724. Dan Watson/The Signal

“When you see their faces and they smile, it’s priceless,” Blanco said. “I have no way to describe it.” 

Malerba said she looks forward to these monthly classes to both stay in shape and meet new people. She also likes how it helps her remove herself from daily life, if only for a short time. 

“It just gives me a break and it gets my heart pumping, moving towards fitness and being healthy,” Malerba said. 

For now, the class remains monthly, but multiple attendees, and Blanco, said they would be ecstatic to see it happen more often. 

Instructor Ingrid Blanco of D'Wilfri Dance, maps out steps for clients as she leads a dance class at the Circle of Hope in Newhall on Wednesday, 011724.  Dan Watson/The Signal
Instructor Ingrid Blanco of D’Wilfri Dance, maps out steps for clients as she leads a dance class at the Circle of Hope in Newhall on Wednesday, 011724. Dan Watson/The Signal

“Every time they come, they say, ‘Oh, you should do it more often,’” Blanco said. “And I’m like, ‘Yes, well I’m here.’ In the meantime, take advantage and do the best as you can and I will be happy to see everybody once a month. 

“I’m always happy to give back to the community and the people around me. I mean, that can be me. That can be one of my friends or family, and I want somebody to be there.” 

For more information on Circle of Hope, visit circleofhopeinc.org. 

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