Step Change Studios recently delivered ‘Dance Westminster’ in partnership with Westminster City. The initiative encouraged disabled people in the community to be active. Step Change Studios provided almost 100 hours of free dance consisting of: workshops where people could have a go; dance auditions for people that wanted to take part in a ‘Strictly’-inspired competition; and 1:1 coaching. This was a pan-disability initiative which saw people aged 13-79 with physical, intellectual, and sensory impairments from diverse backgrounds participate. Many were dancing for the first time. Too many were set low expectations from a young age – but have been blowing those expectations away…
Dance Westminster received resounding positive feedback with participants wanting to keep dancing. Audience feedback was also overwhelmingly positive. The majority of audience members were seeing disabled dancers perform for the first time. Some of the Dance Westminster participants and their families share their experience with DAO.
I am an Asian-British-Bangladeshi and was born in South-East London. I first lived on my own in 2017 with some support but I am very independent. I have a physical disability and dyslexia. I have succeeded in overcoming many challenges. I enjoy being a DJ and play at events for people with learning disabilities. I also love playing football for Southwark Stars Disability FC where I have made new friends. I am a disability advocate speaking to people from the Asian community, encouraging people not to hide their learning disability and to achieve their goals and support each other.
Dance Westminster was my first experience of dance, I had never danced before in my life. Thank you so much for inviting me to the dance workshop and audition, which was fantastic. I really enjoyed meeting everyone. The choreographer was fantastic. I was a bit nervous before, but really enjoy learning the Samba. It was great to see Will Bailey from Strictly Come Dancing at the workshop, he is a real inspiration! I was nervous and shy before my audition in-front of the judges, but I think I did really well in expressing myself, and representing people with learning disabilities.
When I got to the finals I was one of 10 finalists, doing different types of dance. It was amazing to be awarded 2nd place. I did a street dance routine to Usher who is my favourite singer. My teacher Hannah was very patient and professional; she was able to take elements of my dance moves and develop them.
The whole process really felt like a lot of fun to me – it was great to develop my skills and understanding, and to work towards goals that Hannah and I developed. I really want to use the process as an inspiration for other people with disabilities. I want them to think about what they could do, and how to get there. Dancing really meant a lot to me and I would like to do more of it in the future.
My time at Step Change Studios was a roller-coaster but I enjoyed dancing because it opens doors to communication. Dance helps with my self-esteem and to deal with my mental health, even though I was nervous because the other dancers had a lot more confidence than I do. I enjoyed being partnered up with Lawrence even though I never had a dance partner before so I had to really rely on his instructions and his trust. I was also worried because I did not rehearse it in my bedroom enough, so I relied on the song and the timing which really helped. I also listened to ‘Youngblood’ nearly every day and I knew it enough to know what move goes where. I guess the song was my third partner and that made me express every move and mood.
Would I continue to dance? I would not compete but I dance because it expresses my mood and thoughts. I also dance to celebrate life – it is more of a hobby than a way of life. I thank Lawrence and Step Change Studios for introducing me to ballroom; I NEVER danced ballroom so thanks for making me to try it out.
When Amin was born I was told so many things; that he might not ever walk talk or even hear. Watching Amin grow has been such an amazing journey. He can do anything and everything but when Amin dances it’s like he is talking though his body.
This for me as a mum was such an amazing experience – to see that my son was up in front of so many people dancing. I can only say how proud I felt. If you went back 14 years ago, I would have never thought that he would accomplish so many things in life so far. I know how important dance is to show emotions, to release and to communicate. I hope there are more dance opportunities for Amin as he only really gets the chance to dance in the living room or at home.
‘I love dancing and I loved my dance teacher and I would like to dance again in the big room’.