13 May 2019

After six dance-offs, five towns and cities, and six months of close competition, the winners of Wales’ first inclusive dance competition, Strictly Cymru, were crowned in Caernarfon on Saturday (11 May).

Strictly Cymru, hosted by disability charity Leonard Cheshire in partnership with Paradance UK,  aims to improve health, wellbeing and access to active lifestyles for disabled people across Wales.

From dozens of hopefuls drawn from across Wales, 5 young dancers snagged the top prizes in the two categories, Inclusive (open to all) and Wheelchair (open to participants who use wheelchairs to dance).

The winners were chosen from 14 acts, comprising 32 dancers dancing in groups, pairs or solo with professional partners. The judging panel was made up of Lord Peter Hain and GB Paradance Champions Paula Moulton and Gary Lyness.

Seventeen-year-old Rhodri Thompson, dancing solo, won in the Inclusive category, while duo Owen “Owie” Rowlands and Kayleigh Haynes won in the Wheelchair category.

Rhodri found out about the competition after seeing a flyer before wowing judges at the street-dance themed second heat of the competition in Gaerwen in January.

Wheelchair category winner Owen, who likes to be known as Owie, hails from Gwel Yr Mor, Leonard Cheshire’s supported living service in Anglesey, while his dancing partner Kayleigh is a resident of Leonard Cheshire’s Arfon supported living service in Colwyn Bay.

Rhodri, Owie and Kayleigh all received the top trophy, the Grand Final Glitter Ball.

The judges highly commended Sarah Thornton, returning to the Inclusive category after last year’s competition, and Hayley McBride, competing in the Wheelchair competition. Both won Paradance bursaries.

Finalists came from Leonard Cheshire services in Swansea Can Do, Dolywern, Eithinog, and Johnstown, while other aspiring dancers travelled from Bridgend, Newport, Anglesey, Carmarthen, and Cardiff.

Rhodri said: “It’s been amazing! I’m so happy to win! Thank you everyone from Leonard Cheshire.”

Howie simply said: “I’m happy, happy, happy!”

Kayleigh “I can’t believe it, it’s been so brilliant being involved and I loved dancing with [trainer] Thea from Para Dance UK.”

Patrick McGeough CEO for Para Dance UK, said: “This amazing partnership with Leonard Cheshire Wales around Strictly Cymru has enabled us to show that any individual in Wales can dance, no matter what the age or ability!

“We hope that this event has inspired more people to be active and see the possibilities through dance to be social, creative and competitive in the welsh dance community and we look forward to seeing those who have taken part in this amazing event, inspiring more people to take part in dance or become a Para Dance instructors to start up their own group and keep supporting the message  that Para Dance UK and Leonard Cheshire Wales started this partnership with, that every one can dance!”

Mark Isherwood AM, who helped to judge the first heat in Dolywen in December, returned to lend his support for the final.

For further details and to find out how to take part in 2020, please visit: www.leonardcheshire.org/strictlycymru