My name is Catherine Pugh. I’m from North Wales and I have Diplegic Spastic Cerebral Palsy. I am part of the Administrative Team for the NHS Physiotherapy Department at the Community Hospital in my area.
My other part of life has been running Buzz-AH! a performing arts charity that I founded and set up in 2002. Buzz-AH! is an inclusive group that rehearse weekly. We produce a show of song and dance that is performed at Theatre Clwyd Cymru in Flintshire, North Wales. Buzz-AH! is inclusive with the way it adapts singing and dancing to enable all members to take part equally.
I come more from a singing background. I achieved my ALCM in Musical Theatre Performance in 2005. Every year, I have performed with Buzz-AH! and loved every show.
Although I am more confident in singing whether it be a solo, group or harmony group, I never saw myself as a dancer or even thought I could dance and look good dancing if that’s makes sense? That was because of my perception of my disability and how my body moved, which I didn’t like at all.
Now I’m so happy to share my dance journey. When the Covid-19 Pandemic struck and everything stopped, it was devastating for the whole world. It also made life extremely difficult on a smaller level for pockets of communities and groups of people. Obviously BuzzAH! stopped like so many other groups. Initially I did a lot of Zoom fitness classes to keep my mind and body healthy.
I received an email from another group about Step Change Studios who were setting up dance classes on Zoom every Sunday concentrating on different styles of dance, such as hip hop, contemporary, and latin. I was so excited that an organisation was offering dance lessons to individuals with disabilities. I have been looking in my local area for a number of years for dance lessons in specific styles for adults that have disabilities but have never found a class that met what I was looking for. I took part in the sessions for a number of weeks and got so much out of it and really felt I was being taught dance in an inclusive way rather than a “disabled way”. Step Change Studios were offering 1-2-1 private dance lessons which I decided to take up.
I chose Musical Theatre as the dance style I wanted lessons in and I chose different songs for Caroline (Step Change Studios dance teacher) to choreograph a routine to learn. Every single lesson I have thoroughly loved and felt that my dance skills have improved every single week.
I wanted to explore contemporary style of dance; it’s something I’ve never really thought about and we did a couple of sessions learning a choreographed routine in that style. I really enjoyed this style and Caroline felt it suited me. Both Rashmi and Caroline suggested I have a goal to perform one of the routines that I had learned. This was very exciting: having the chance to perform what I had achieved in dance, which I never, ever thought I would ever be able to do.
Both Caroline and I chose a Contemporary dance style to perform and I chose the song: “I’ll Never Love again”, from the 2018 film “A Star is Born”.
Feeling Like a True Dancer
During the rehearsals, Caroline worked on three specific dance techniques to help me to enhance the performance and my skills as a dancer. The first was the Cunningham technique that was developed Merce Cunningham to “create strength and flexibility of the body and the mind.” The second was the Graham technique, based on the opposition between contraction and release. The third was the Release technique, which is focused on the principles of “ease of movement” and “fluidity”. I’ve loved every second of learning the choreography for this dance. I feel like a true dancer!
I would finally like to thank Rashmi, founder of Step Change Studios for letting me explore dance and giving me the chance to perform this very special Contemporary Dance. I hope it will inspire others to take up dance whatever their ability.
I would also like to thank with all my heart the beautiful, wonderful Caroline, for teaching me to dance and helping to explore both Musical Theatre and Contemporary Dance. Also, for the way she has taught me and helped me to feel that I can dance and my body can look and move like a dancer, whatever my disability.
Watch Catherine’s home-based dance performance