Walt Gary and Anne Loflin

Dancing for Joy

A group of people pose for a photo in a classroom.
UA and CrossingPoints students at a dance class led by students studying musical theatre. Photos courtesy of Anne Dillon Loflin.

Anne Dillon Loflin came to The University of Alabama to study musical theatre, but she graduates this semester with more than a degree. She leaves UA with an experience that enriched her life.

Loflin, a native of Huntsville, began a program teaching dance to students in UA’s CrossingPoints, a post-secondary transition program for individuals with intellectual disabilities. Called Tide Turners, it is one of a growing list of activities providing opportunities for both CrossingPoints students and UA students.

Undergraduates and graduate students involved with CrossingPoints are encouraged to conceptualize and execute activities that align with the program’s pillars of improving academics, social skills and job hirability, and promoting independent living.

“There’s something about being involved in an artistic endeavor that creates community more than anything else,” Loflin said. “I’m just grateful we got to be a part of creating an artistic environment for them.”

Her involvement with CrossingPoints began through her cousin Walt Gary, longtime Crimson Tide superfan who died in June 2019. Born with Down syndrome, Gary was known by many on campus as an employee at the UA Supply Store for 15 years.

He was also a graduate of the CrossingPoints program. In spring 2019, Loflin helped with CrossingPoints Dinner Theater where students pick a production, settle on scripts and costumes, and rehearse in the run-up to a public performance.

Walt Gary and Anne Loflin smile for a photograph.
Anne Dillon Loflin, right, got to know the CrossingPoints program through her cousin, Walt Gary.

Gary got sick soon after, and Loflin hoped she could expand CrossingPoints arts offerings through a dance class. She recruited friends from the musical theatre program to help start dance classes that began in fall 2019.

“I really felt a calling on my heart to start something to be part of this artistic expression that Walt loved,” Loflin said. “The people at CrossingPoints were so supportive of us being involved.”

Loflin and her friends incorporated dances from popular music while also choreographing dances for the class. As soon as the music started, Loflin said she could tell the class was a success.

“They were so invested and engaged, singing and dancing,” she said. “I knew we were onto something special.”

Loflin said she is thankful all the musical theatre students stuck with the program to form relationships, and the dance classes are scheduled to continue as other students take over after Loflin graduates.

“During her visits, she was a leader in forming relationships with each of our students and spreading her enthusiasm, patience and unconditional acceptance to everyone,” said Grace Copes, a teacher at CrossingPoints. “She and her classmates brought many fun times to our Friday dance sessions.”

Though the coronavirus pandemic means changes to Loflin’s plans after graduating, she said she will continue her involvement with arts advocacy and arts education.

“This experience reminded me of the joy of performing because they were just there to sing and dance and be joyful,” Loflin said. “All of us musical theatre majors have been changed forever by their joy and abandon in their performances.”