Paula Abdul is teaming up with I'm a Dancer Against Cancer to share her personal experience ahead of the Industry Dance Awards in August

By Nicole Sands
Updated August 10, 2016 02:30 PM
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Credit: Stephen BUSKEN

Paula Abdul truly believes dancing can save lives.

“See, dance gets into your blood, it gets into your veins, it gets into your heart, into your soul and it doesn’t leave,” Abdul tells PEOPLE exclusively about the healing method, which she holds near and dear to her heart.

Abdul has been spreading awareness about how dancing played a large role in her family’s life since her sister, Wendy, was diagnosed with breast cancer several years ago.

“I’ll never forget the day I was with her and she was so nervous because she had the feeling that there was something wrong, and sure enough there was and the very next day I was wondering what can I do to help my sister,” says Abdul.

She continues, “I contacted a friend of a friend and within 24 hours we got my sister in to the head of oncology, and the fact that my sister has been a dancer, we still danced even if she couldn’t leave the house.”

Abdul recalls dancing to her sister’s favorite tunes by Stevie Wonder, The Jacksons and Earth, Wind and Fire.

“Even when she was violently ill, we kept playing the music and we kept dancing and smiling and laughing, and I gotta tell you that was one major focal point that kept her going.”

“It’s the one aspect of entertainment that I think changes your life. Dance is healing, dance is necessary, it’s vital and it’s critical that we keep it alive,” says Abdul.

Along with Derek Hough, Julianne Hough, Vanessa Hudgens and Chita Rivera, the former American Idol judge is teaming up with nonprofit organization I’m a Dancer Against Cancer – which provides financial support to dance educators, dancers and parents impacted by cancer – to raise awareness leading up to the charity’s Industry Dance Awards & Cancer Benefit Show in August.

This year, the awards will honor Chita Rivera with the Lifetime Achievement award, Alex Rudzinski with the Dance Innovator award, Desmond Richardson with the Dance Icon award, Maddie Ziegler with the Breakthrough Performer award, Matt Steffanina with the New Media Influencer award and Liz Imperio with the Role Model award.