Sport Birmingham, Tackling Inequalities Funding provides inclusive dance opportunities for over 300 disabled children & adults in Birmingham.
Over 300 disabled children and adults in Birmingham were able to reap the amazing benefits of inclusive dance between June 2021 to September 2021 thanks to Sport Birmingham’s, Tackling Inequalities Fund.
Through a combination of inclusive dance sessions, and workshops,Para Dance UK were able to provide fantastic opportunities for disabled children and adults in Birmingham to stay active, connect with others and help to reduce isolation during Covid-19.
Thanks to the funding, Para Dance UK were able to deliver twenty-one-hour weekly sessions to two groups in Birmingham; Cerebral Palsy Midlands, a Birmingham based registered charity and community day centre in Harbone that empowers and supports people with cerebral palsy and other disabilities and Freewheelin an inclusive dance group in Rubery Birmingham.
Each session was designed to be inclusive so that everyone could engage, whether the participant had a physical, learning and/or mental disability. Sessions were held both in person and online to increase access and reduce barriers to participating and were delivered by one of Para Dance UK’s dance instructors Helen Mason. A range of dance styles were covered which included ballet, contemporary, samba and the waltz. For many dancers this was their first-time dancing together in person after over a year of lockdowns and shielding, so the aim was to increase confidence whilst building stamina and fitness levels.
Kathy who was a participant in the group sessions told us; “I have really enjoyed getting back to having the challenge again and having the time to be with people knowing that it was a controlled environment. My dance instructor was understanding of how people felt, she has made it fun to learn new dances, giving everyone a chance of expressing their dance and especially allowing me to dance within my limitations and changing abilities. I know that I have found a sport that I can carry on doing even though I have a degenerate condition. I have found dance again which gives me a way to show emotions without breaking down into tears, because I find it is no longer a thing that I cannot do but where Everyone Can Dance. No matter how your body moves, as long as you enjoy the music and movement, the company you’re in, have the enjoyment of dancing and realise that any movement you can portray can be a form of dance.”
Helen Mason who facilitated the sessions told us “Many of the group have said that they felt happier and more energised after the sessions and that they felt happy to be dancing with their friends again.
I have seen an increase in confidence, physical fitness, overall improved mental wellbeing, and improved dance skills in participants such as timing, posture and co-ordination.”
“For those who were able to attend our face-to-face sessions the main feedback we have received has been how amazing it has been being able to dance together as a group again and having the space to dance in a studio as opposed to dancing from home in a limited room. Many participants commented on their wheelchair skills lacking after being home for 17 months and how much they have enjoyed working on those skills again. For those participants that have been unable to attend in person they have been able to join in online to join in on the sessions. This has provided a wonderful opportunity to socially interact with others which otherwise would not be the case and has been hugely important as nobody has been excluded or missed out if they have not felt comfortable leaving their house due to COVID-19.”
In addition to the inclusive dance sessions Para Dance UK also delivered four dance workshops during the months of June and July 2021. These were held virtually over zoom and led by Para Dance UK instructors Selina Johnson & Ruby Gray. The workshops included Rock and Roll, Musical Theatre, Street Dance and a lyrical workshop which was themed around the Commonwealth. Two of these workshops were part of Sport Birmingham’s Inclusive Sports Festival
Over 250 children took part in the workshops with over 90% percent of attendees coming from SEN Primary & Secondary schools in Birmingham. Clifton Primary School who took part in three of the workshops told us:
“The Clifton Sky room have used three of the great Para Dance virtual workshops now and they have loved them. Pupils with a range of special needs attended the sessions and were able to access it at a range of levels and were engrossed! Several members of the group who rarely take part in expressive routines, took part and were smiling! They loved the virtual angle too.”
A picture of their school taking part in one of the workshops was posted on their social media which can be found here and was incredibly empowering to see.
It is clearly evidenced from the feedback we have had what a wonderful impact the sessions and workshops have had to the disabled community in Birmingham across all age groups.
Para Dance UK hopes to continue its mission to provide inclusive dance opportunities to engage and inspire the disability community to be creative and active in dance. We would like to say a special Thank-you to Sport Birmingham, Tackling Inequalities Fund for making the above opportunities possible and to help empower our message that Everyone Can Dance and we hope there will be many more opportunities to work together in the future.