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Motivated Dancers Preparing For World Stage In Los Angeles

It’s hard to contain the excitement now brewing among the 13 Heartbeat dancers and their parents.

The special-needs dance troupe, which trains at 24-VII Danceforce Studio at Windward Mall, has been invited to perform at the July opening of the World Special Olympics in Los Angeles.

“We are so very proud of our kids,” said Abraleen Keliinui, parent of Heartbeat dancer (and Kailua High grad) Natasha Brice, 23. “In the meantime, we are fundraising like crazy and trying to get the word out.”

Created by former Miss Hawaii sisters Ashley and Jonelle Layfield, Heartbeat consists of individuals with intellectual disabilities, but there’s nothing lacking in their hearts and commitment to perform. Keliinui cited the experience of watching her own daughter blossom from what started as “just physical activity and socialization.”

“They’ve adjusted to the change of instructors and learned to adapt. They can wait their turn for hours (backstage). We parents think it’s easy, but it’s not.

We tried to learn one song, and I gave up!”

Supporters can see Heartbeat at 24-VII Danceforce’s spring concert “Prizm” by its NextGen students at 2:30 and 5 p.m. April 3-4 at Paliku Theatre. (Shows by 24-VII’s adult and teen dancers, “K.O. Lab,” will start at 8 p.m.) Tickets range from $12 to $25, plus fees, at brownpapertickets.com/event/1322491.

Parents have planned more benefits and dance opportunities, such as Waimanalo Homestead’s Prince Kuhio celebration Thursday, a Kaneohe Safeway benefit Saturday (tentative), and Pizza Hut nights March 24 and April 15. Heartbeat also will dance at the special Peter’s Prom April 17 at Hawaii Okinawa Center.

Windward Heartbeat dancers include Jasmine Humalon, Alton Bustamente, Gabby Flemming, Cailey Chong, Jason Smits, Erin Nakamoto, Kekoa Tato, Jordan Ilae, Marcus Jung and Brice.