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Balanced Body COREterly

Winter 2019

People and Places

The Empower Program

By: Daniel Wilson

This article was originally published in the 2019 Balanced Body catalog.

Angelie Melzer is the owner of Team Pilates Studio in Spokane WA, the Artistic Director for the Spokane Professional Ballet and a Balanced Body Master Instructor. In 2016, Angelie's career paths converged, resulting in Empower, a non-profit program that has positively affected the lives of many in the Spokane area.

"I teach a movement class to our advanced dancers pursuing a career in the performing arts," said Angelie. "They are required to take the course and learn how to teach. At the same time, I work at the studio with a friend's daughter. She had a variety of ailments and I was trying to create a way to get her moving. Pilates was too intense and thought provoking for her, so I went with music. It's universal in all bodies — we innately want to move. Then it struck me — "why not use the class for my advanced dancers as an opportunity to teach both abled and disabled bodies?"

That question led to the creation of Empower, a non-profit organization co-founded by Angelie and Alison Dyer, to bring activities to individuals who normally don't have access to them due to financial, personal or physical limitations. Pilates and other movement forms are used, but the approach may differ in order to meet the physical and emotional needs of the participants.

Empower Ballet was the first component, with the dancers learning with Angelie on how to work with children and adults with disabilities. As that program grew, it caught the eye of coaches and athletes from the nearby Gonzaga Prep High School. They, too, wanted to help. So, this fall Empower Basketball was launched and next spring will mark the debut of Empower Football.

"It's been awesome. The children and adults with disabilities get to be "normal" and the coaches learn how to interact and be present with them," says Angelie. "Best of all, the families get to see their kids in a tutu for the first time, or throw a ball for the first time — to really see them living in their bodies once again."

In 2018 Empower for Hope was started as a way to serve women who were/are victims of abuse. Angelie and Alison worked closely with local professionals in the mental health arena to bring these women back into their "bodies" and get them to take control over their lives.

"As a part of this program, we offer scholarships through our partnership with Balanced Body as Master Instructors to help these women start a new career in the Pilates industry. We want them to take back their lives, raise their families on their own, and be involved in a career field that is nurturing and grows their mind and body as practitioners," says Angelie.

In a short period of time, Empower for Hope has had a monumental impact on many women. Alison, who serves as the Director of Empower for Hope, is one of them. "I'm here because I know how important it is to bring the body into the process of healing," she says. "I spent years in therapy and while I was helped tremendously, I didn't fully incorporate my experiences of abuse until I listened to my body tell it's stories. I have come home to my own body in a way I never believed possible. It's my passion to bring this to other abuse victims."

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Daniel Wilson is the Senior Communications Manager for Balanced Body