The Story of ComMotion

ComMotion was founded in 2018 by a cancer survivor and disabled veteran who found health and happiness through learning to dance and wanted to give that same opportunity to others in need. The organization has been steadily growing and since 2018 has taught hundreds of movement programs for more than 30,000 people of all ages and abilities, including military veterans, cancer survivors, seniors, kids, and people with disabilities. We have had students from preschool age to over 100 years old, and with a wide range of physical and cognitive abilities.

ComMotion is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization based in North Carolina.
We teach in-person and online classes across the country.

Commotion word cloud 2 7Feb2022


Dance and movement have been proven in numerous studies to have a variety of health and wellness benefits:

Key Staff

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Andre Avila

Artistic Director

My passion is to make dance and integrative arts programs accessible to everyone. I am the owner of Rhythm Journey NC and an instructor for Wake Tech, the American Dance Festival's Parkinson's Movement Initiative, and the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Duke University.  I am certified to teach the American Dance Wheels Foundation Wheel One Bronze wheelchair ballroom syllabus, a National Exercise Trainers Association Pilates Mat Instructor and Senior Fitness Specialist, a Certified Adaptive Sports Coach, and a Dance for PD Stanley J. Wertheimer Fellow, and I have received special training in audio description for the visually impaired.  As the Artistic Director of ComMotion, my focus is to create adaptive and inclusive programs designed to improve the well-being of the participants. My journey with the arts started in my birthplace of Bogotá, Colombia where my ballet, jazz, and tap training began at the age of eight. Later, I expanded my repertoire to include South American folkdance and traditional Latin social dances. Training in rhythm and smooth ballroom dance began when I moved to the US in 2003. Since that time, I have taught and competed professionally with studios in Las Vegas, New York, Massachusetts, and North Carolina, specializing in rhythm and smooth ballroom with additional proficiencies in Argentine Tango, West Coast Swing, Hustle, Kizomba, and Flamenco.


Rachel Palermo

Social Worker

Rachel Palermo is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker from Lake Charles, Louisiana. Rachel earned her undergraduate degree in Psychology at McNeese State University in 2017 and her Master’s degree in Social Work from The University of Memphis in 2019. She has experience working with children, adolescents, and adults in both in-patient and out-patient settings. Rachel completed her clinical training at The Pediatric Center and Oceans Behavioral Hospital. This experience enriched her clinical skills in individual and group therapy while working with diverse populations. Rachel enjoys using somatic movement in her therapeutic practice. She believes engaging the mind/ body connection is essential for healing. Outside of her time working, Rachel enjoys connecting to family and friends, bike riding, and long walks with her dog, Oliver.

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Sandi Painter

Social Worker

Sandi Painter has been a Licensed Clinical Social Worker since 2009. She has over 25 years of experience working in high volume human service environments, including 13 years as a therapist in women’s health clinics. Her therapy approach is primarily based in Bowen Family Systems Theory, and also uses cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness practices. As a young adult, she learned to dance by participating in a community based African Caribbean dance company for almost 10 years, and found it therapeutic and fun! She enjoys participating in and sharing the gift of music and dance when given the opportunity. When she is not working, she enjoys traveling and spending time with her family, friends, and in nature.

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Rachel Ehtesham


Rachel fell in love with ballroom during a high school swing dance class. Her dance training continued at UNC-Chapel Hill, where she also received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Rachel taught at A Step to Gold International Ballroom for 5 years. As an instructor for ComMotion since 2016, she loves seeing the joy that dancing brings to the lives of new dancers.

Katherine Hayes

Katherine Hayes


Katherine Hayes, owner of Adore Real Talent, started her journey with two specific songs: “Mambo Number 5” by Lou Bega and “Prawy do lewego” by Bregovic & Kayah in her Grandmother's kitchen at the age of 5.  She studied ballet, modern and jazz for 5 years and wanted to broaden her horizons and went on to explore belly dance, Bollywood, and finally, ballroom dance.  In 2014 she started teaching at Fred Astaire Dance Studio in Fairfax, Virginia. After teaching there for 3½ years, she started her own business and has taught independently ever since. She specializes in American Style Smooth and Rhythm along with Salsa, Hustle, and Argentine Tango. With her students she has performed many showcases and competitions, including Ohio Star Ball and Virginia State. In addition she has had great opportunities to perform at events such as the DC’s Dancing with the Stars Gala for three consecutive years and won the Judges’ Choice award twice.  Living in Raleigh, NC since 2017 she is excited to share her knowledge, joy and passion of ballroom dance with everyone she meets!

Monica Matthews

Monica Matthews


My name is Monica and I love many kinds of dancing. I have been clogging for over 20 years. I also enjoy many different folk dances such as contra dancing, square dancing, scottish dancing, english dancing and social ballroom and partner dancing. My favorite way to exercise is to music so I am happy to share easily accessible musical dance exercise classes to a variety of abilities and ages. I have a background in elementary and special education.


Carla Perkins


A birthday gift and rhinestones – the launch of an obsession.  Well, more accurately the furthering of one.  It likely started with picking up a musical instrument around the age of three, continued through the typical early age dance classes, and expanded through a many years love affair with musical training and a strong affinity for Appalachian style clogging (it’s loud, obnoxious, and fun – a perfect fit!) all enjoyed through her college years.  Enter the introduction to ballroom dancing (and all of its sparkles!) a few years later, and she was eternally hooked.  Carla thrives on challenges which are plentiful in the world of partner dancing – teaching novice dancers how to connect with their body and develop stronger agency over it and to connect with their partner for mutual success on the floor, developing students into confident performers and successful competitors (earning top student and top amateur couple titles), and continuing to acquire skill and knowledge in her own dancing through training with world champion coaches, performing with talented professional partners, and absorbing all things rhythmical movement whenever possible.  The most cherished reward from her efforts however is simply receiving the reflection of joy her students experience through the power of movement paired with the magic of music.

You’ll often find her on the dancefloor at Danceformation, Inc. – otherwise she’s occupied in her hair salon or snuggling with her fur babies.  She looks forward to dancing with you soon!

Raquel Reynolds

Racquel Reynolds


Raquel Reynolds started dancing at the age of 3 with ballet, tap, jazz and hip hop. She transitioned over to ballroom, swing, latin and country western when she turned 19 as an amateur but went professional at the age of 22. After competing in ballroom, hustle and swing for a few years, she finally started teaching and eventually opened her own studio in 2006. In the studio setting, she trained wedding couples, social dancers, competitive dancers and even used her personal training certification for group fitness classes.  Her competitive career is quite extensive resulting in 6 World Championship titles in couples and line dance. She is currently one of three Superstar line dancers active in the United States. Other titles include top choreographer, open routine classic swing, Jack and Jill titles and strictly swing top wins as well. In addition to competing, she trains dancers around the country in line dance and provides custom choreography for showcase dances and competitive couples.  Currently, she has a home dance studio where she instructs a huge variety of dancers and trains for her own dancing as well.  She teaches 22 styles of dance in this location. She lives with her husband and his two children, plus they are expecting their first child in February of 2020. She enjoys landscaping where she uses her degree in horticulture and entomology, plays tennis and a variety of other sports with her husband and family, volunteering weekly at the local SPCA animal shelter and enjoying life.  She wants everyone to know that it doesn’t matter how you move, just as long as you keep moving!

Selected Presentations and Speaking Engagements


  • Presenters, American Therapeutic Recreation Association (ATRA) Town Hall, November 2023
  • Lecturer, Universidad Mayor de San Andres (UMSA) College of Kinesiology & Physical Therapy and College of Medicine, La Paz, Bolivia, September 2023
  • Keynote Speaker, Upper Coastal Plain Area Agency on Aging 2023 Aging Conference, June 2023
  • Presenters, Upper Coastal Plain Area Agency on Aging
    Regional Aging Advisory Committee, May 2023
  • Presenters, Barton College Dementia Caregivers Conference, March 2023


  • Panelists, Duke Cancer Institute What’s Best for Breasts, October 2022
  • Presenter, See Me at the Smithsonian, July 2022
  • Co-Host, Adaptive Dance Series for All, June 2022
  • Workshop Presenter, NC Center for Afterschool Programs Synergy Conference, April 2022
  • Webinar Presenter, Kennedy Center School and Community Programs DepartmentApril 2022
  • Presenter, Alumni TIES “Shaping Our Future Together: Grassroots Mobilization and Authentic Community Engagement”, March 2022
  • Webinar Presenter, Engaging Virtual Learners as a Teaching Artist, March 2022
  • Presenter, See Me at the Smithsonian, February 2022


  • Workshop Presenter, 2021 Blaze Sports National Parasport Conference, October 2021
  • Workshop Presenter, 2021 Move United Education Conference, May 2021
  • Co-Host, Adaptive Dance Series for All, May 2021
  • Presenter, Lung Cancer Initiative of North Carolina, May 2021
  • Featured Presenter, Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative Closing Forum, April 2021
  • Master Class, NC Central University, April 2021
  • Presenter, Greenville Area Parkinson Society, April 2021


  • Presenter, Hearts Need Art, December 2020
  • Speaker, 2020 Caregivers Summit, October 2020
  • Presenter, National Organization of Arts & Health Annual Conference, October 2020
  • Featured workshop, Duke Cancer Institute Survivorship Day 2020
  • Guest Lecturers, Clemson University Recreation Therapy Department, April 2020
  • Panelist, Accessibility Training for Volunteers, Arts Access & Pinecone, March, 2020


  • Dance and Movement for Everyone workshop, 2019 BlazeSports Institute Adaptive Sports & Recreation Southeast Conference
  • Featured speaker, Eisai
  • Presenter, Chatham County Senior Center Veteran’s Day 2019
  • Dance and Movement for Everyone workshop, Caregiver Summit Wake/Raleigh 2019
  • Demonstration, United Arts Council of Raleigh and Wake County Gala 2019
  • Featured speaker, “I Am” 2019 – Conversations that inspire women, Tryon Fine Arts Center
  • Presenter, Duke Cancer Center and UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center Survivor Days
  • Featured speaker, Wake County Health Department 2019
  • Keynote speaker, 2019 NC Extension Service Conference
  • 2019 Accessible Dance Workshop Panelist, Arts Access and Axis Dance Company

Professional Affiliations

Community Partner