We would like you to get to know Katie Goodwin, our new National Representative for Para Dance UK Members. A dancer since childhood, today Katie represents Para Dance UK and competes in championships on a national level.
In this Q&A, Katie tells us how inclusive dance has changed her life. She dispels some common misconceptions about dance when you have an impairment or disability and offers some words of encouragement for anyone who wants to give it a try.
How did you first get involved with Para Dance UK?
I first got involved with Para Dance UK back in 2016, when I joined my local group. . I entered a few competitions, including the National Championships and did quite well, and I really enjoyed being part of the local group. I made some amazing friendships.
Then when I noticed that there was an opening for Para Dance UK’s National Representative, my friends encouraged me to apply.
It’s an honour to now represent Para Dance UK because inclusive dance is something I’m so passionate about.
What does being Para Dance UK’s National Representative mean to you?
Being National Representative is about representing the membership of Para Dance UK; being the voice for the members and taking any feedback the members might have -good or bad- to the trustees. But it works the other way too: taking news and opportunities back to the members.
Really it’s about finding ways to take Para Dance UK forward.
If you had to describe inclusive dance in three words, what would they be?
- Empowering: I feel empowered when I dance.
- Inclusivity: Dancing in a wheelchair doesn’t make you feel different; it’s about including everyone. Even when you’re dancing with a non-disabled partner, you don’t feel different, because you’re dancing as a couple and as part of a team.
- Ability: Inclusive dance doesn’t focus on what we can’t do, it shows the world what we are capable of doing.
What’s your earliest memory of dancing?
My earliest memory of dancing would have to be the school disco. I went to a specialist school for youngsters with disabilities and every Wednesday it was disco night so we had dancing -and basically just a big party- every Wednesday!
My school focused on what you could do, not the challenges you face in life. And now, inclusive dance makes me feel the same. These two things combined have given me the attitude that I can do all sorts of things, I just sometimes have to find a different way to do them.
What’s the biggest misconception about dancing in a wheelchair?
The biggest misconception about dancing in a wheelchair is that we can’t do it! People think that dance is something that disabled people just don’t do.
It’s not ignorance, even, it’s just a lack of awareness. My mum always says that before I was born, she didn’t even know anybody with a disability – people just aren’t aware.
But hopefully putting myself out there, just living my life, and dancing is enough to show able-bodied people that we’re just like them.
You’ve already competed in three National Championships. What’s next?
Because of COVID-19, things have been a bit different over the last year but I have done a couple of online competitions. This summer I’m planning on entering Para Dance UK’s Summer Festival.
I’m very much a people person so I do miss competing and seeing people in person so I’m looking forward to getting back to in-person events again soon, but there’s still lots we can do under the current circumstances.
Do you have any advice for people who want to try inclusive dance, but are scared to start?
I would say just go and do a little bit of research on the internet first, find a local group, go along for a couple of sessions, see how you feel. On the Para Dance UK website, you can put your postcode in and “Find an Instructor”. You can also contact me or the staff at firstname.lastname@example.org and they can answer any questions for you.
At the moment more people can actually access inclusive dance because a lot of sessions are online, and people can take part in their own homes so that’s a positive.
Give it a go and see how you like it!
What do you hope for the future of inclusive dance in the UK?
I hope that we carry on enjoying inclusive dance and showing people that dance is for anyone and everyone: disabled people can still do the same things as everybody else! We want to keep making our profile bigger so that more people are aware of what we do and how they can get involved with Para Dance UK.
Finally, we can’t help but ask: how do you feel when you’re dancing?
When I’m dancing, I feel free. Because I’m moving – and when you have a disability you don’t often get that sense of freedom because you’re restrained by the way you move. Music and dance have always been my relief.
But I also just feel joy when I dance, because I love it.
And I feel acceptance too because I’m showing the world what I can do.
Celestine Fraser Volunteer