Below you can hear from others what dance can do to impact your life. We have many different stories from a variety of different scenarios and we are always adding more!
Para Dance Inclusive Instructor Lucy
I’m Lucy Poynton, a Dance teacher at an SEN school on the Wirral. I have been an affiliate instructor with Para Dance UK since 2018 and have been developing projects within my school and community since then.
More recently, I have started some contractual work with Para Dance UK and have absolutely loved it. I am able to choreograph, teach and film in my own time and around my own work and family commitments. The projects I have been involved in so far have been so interesting and a real pleasure to be a part of. I have learnt such a lot from other Para Dance UK instructors and feel fully supported by the very talented team.
Right now, while the world is going through a pandemic, I feel so privileged to be providing dance sessions to our members and participants, and to be able to carry on doing what I love! I look forward to many more projects, Facebook Lives, pre-recorded classes, and eventually, some face to face teaching as well.
Para Dance Sport Athlete Rebecca
Inclusive Dance Participant Jack
Project Participant Jackie
58 years old
Jackie is a part time wheelchair user who signed up for our inclusive dance videos during lockdown. In the 80’s Jackie was awarded a bronze, silver and gold medal through entering dance competitions and enjoyed attending regular dance classes with her daughter.
After suffering a spinal stroke in 2012 which led her to have limited mobility, Jackie stopped dancing as she thought that this was now beyond her. Instead she continued to enjoy the power of dance through watching her daughter.
During the pandemic Jackie found that she was using her wheelchair more often and struggled keeping active in lockdown, mainly staying in one room in the day while her husband worked in another. She came across Para Dance UK’s inclusive dance videos through a spinal injury group on Facebook that had shared the opportunity and thought she would sign up and give it a go. She was not disappointed.
Jackie found the sessions fun and they made her feel good. They were inclusive to her disability and it was nice to be able to do something that was just for her. Taking part in the videos helped her increase her activity during lockdown and re-connect with her love for dance again.
Her advice to anyone thinking about trying dance for the first time is:
“‘Try it but don’t take it seriously. Use it for the fun that it is!”
Project Participant Lorraine
Age: 52 years old
Lorraine is an athlete and part time wheelchair user who signed up for our inclusive dance videos in January. Previously working for the Navy, Lorraine was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2014 just as she was about to join the ambulance service.
Having never danced before Lorraine joined a local dance group in 2015 which was run by one of Para Dance UK’s instructors. Her mind was blown at the freedom that dance provided her with and that you could learn to dance from sitting in a wheelchair. Dancing gave her a new zest for life and she enjoyed the social aspect of being with other people and how much dance increased her confidence. Since she started dancing she has entered into two competitions and is looking forward to future opportunities to compete.
When Lorraine first heard about the inclusive dance videos that Para Dance UK were offering she signed up immediately, keen to learn and absorb everything that she could. The sessions made her feel happy and she loved the mix of the different genres. Having previous dance experience Lorraine found the sessions simple to follow and particularly loved the way that routines were broken down into sections. She enjoyed them so much she has gone back to them many times to practice the final routines.
The videos made her feel part of something during the global pandemic and despite not being able to see the other people who had signed up she felt connected through the power of dance as she knew that they were being enjoyed by others during the lockdown period.
Lorraine’s advice for people thinking about trying dance for the first time is
“Please try it because it gives you such freedom. Being disabled doesn’t and shouldn’t stop you! Make the most of it and never say never.”
Claire Tracey Instructor & Staff Member
Working with Dance Schools to build Inclusivity
Synergy Dance Revitalise Inclusive Program with Para Dance UK
Para Dance UK is very happy to announce its partnership working with Synergy Dance, which is a mixed dance fitness program for boys and girls (infants, juniors and teens) in schools and leisure centres, for mainstream and SEND provision.
Synergy are School Engagement Partners with Active Surrey and working in partnership with Guildford Spectrum Leisure Complex and other leisure providers. They are affiliated to the Exercise Dance Movement UK where you can find their online packages for schools.
Both organisations have been working together over the last 6 months to help support and develop Synergy Dance services to provide inclusive dance for SEN and the disability community. This included supporting their dance teachers to have a stronger foundation of understanding around being inclusive and accessible to the widest community possible.
Patrick McGeough, Para Dance UK CEO, said “We have made some fantastic roads into working with Synergy Dance in showcasing how their classes can include a wide range of the community, how having a strong ethos and a clear level of understanding the community you’re working with enables more disabled people to have fun and be active”.
The hope is that this partnership can show others in the community that working with Para Dance UK, Synergy Dance instructors can set a confidence that dance can be accessible for all.
The work done so far is showing a great impact not only on the disability community but on the teachers being trained. Erin Shanks, Lead Synergy SEND Instructor said, “It has been an all-round extremely positive, rewarding and heart-warming experience and I enjoy every second, learning to adapt and fit in with the group as I teach them so that we are all included and have a good time. I feel these ever-growing skills and my capacity to be flexible and hold the class are supplement to my training with Para Dance UK”.
Rachael Hurton, Founder and Director of Synergy Dance Ltd, said: “Erin and the Synergy team are working hard to bring inclusive dance to as many children and adults as possible. Any inclusive sport or dance is extremely important to those children or teens who would otherwise not be able to participate. All children, regardless of whether they are able bodied, disabled or otherwise, deserve the opportunity to participate in dance and movement and sport. Our SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disability) classes can be liberating for children and adults who may have limited range of movement or co-ordination”.
Heather, Mum of Lucy, who attends our Synergy SEN Movement and Dance class at Guildford Spectrum Leisure Complex said, “I attended the first session with a shy child, unsure of new surroundings. The classes are ability led and fun. My daughter’s self-esteem has increased and she is happy and confident within the lesson. She ends every class telling me “dance is good”, I agree.”
Para Dance UK will continue to work with Synergy Dance in ensuring the classes they provide will enable as many disabled children as possible to be involved in dance. Synergy are also providing classes for Special Educational Needs to deliver inclusive and fun movement classes for all children, teens and adults.
If you would like to work with Synergy Dance, join their Franchise or want to see more details on the classes Synergy Dance offer, please visit their website or contact email@example.com, 01483 234182.
If you would like to work with Para Dance UK to make your dance classes accessible to the disability community or if you want to hear more about the partnership between Para Dance UK and Synergy Dance, you can see more information via our website or please contact us on 0300 111 30 45 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dance using a wheelchair - Sean Furey
I found wheelchair dance because I was looking for a kind of dancing I could do with my partner. I'd been using a wheelchair for a year or two at the time, but had only tried dancing at ceilidhs (highly recommended!) We contacted the WDSA and found a group in Watford, which we joined.
Since joining them we have taken part in classes and workshops, been part of a demonstration in the Olympic park, and recently taken part in our first competition (ballroom and latin). We've also found a community - people with different backgrounds and disabilities coming together to enjoy dance, as well as tea, biscuits, chatting, and the occasional quiz!
Using a wheelchair hasn't been an impediment to dancing. Obviously, some moves have to be adapted - sidestepping, for example, just isn't an option - but the smooth surface of a dance floor could practically have been designed for wheels! I would encourage anyone (wheelchair user or otherwise) to give it a go - it's simply a lot of fun.
Athlete - Paula Moulton
Para Dance UK is a charity and the national governing body for Para Dance Sport in the UK. Its aim is to develop and promote dance as a sport and an inclusive leisure activity across the country.
As well as progressing dancers across the UK through regional and national competitions, Para Dance also develop highly competitive athletes at an international level.
One such athlete is Paula Moulton, from Manchester. Paula is an award-winning international wheelchair dancer, Britain’s Got Talent semi-finalist, and huge advocate for the positive power of dance. But that wasn’t always the case.
“I can’t say that dancing is something that I’ve always been interested in,” Paula laughs, “Unless it was a social thing when going out with friends. In fact, I remember being kicked out of ballet after six months as a kid!
“It wasn’t until I had the opportunity to try dancing again as an adult that I realised how much I love it.”
From those inauspicious beginnings nine years ago, Paula has risen to the highest level of the sport and routinely dances in IPC (International Paralympic Committee) competitions.
“I dance five times a week now” said Paula, “That includes Team GB training twice a week and teaching our own club, as well as teaching another couple of classes.
“Over the course of the week, I dance around 16 hours. Within that, I do Latin, freestyle, duo, social dancing, and line dancing. There’s something for everyone in dance.”
Being at the top of her game means that Paula has had to get used to certain questions being asked of her. She explains: “A lot of people ask me if my bladder and bowel issues were a barrier to me taking up dancing. To be honest, I didn’t even think about it.
“I mean, we’ve had a few near misses over the years, and there’s been a few outfits that have got wet and a few emergency frying sessions, but you learn to manage it. Having bladder and bowel issues isn’t a barrier to dancing at all.
“It never crossed my mind that it would be, and it hasn’t been. Yes, I have a catheter and I get a lot of bladder spasms that mean that I can be incontinent, and that does lead you to worry that very expensive dresses could be about to get ruined, but you learn to factor this in and choose fabrics accordingly.
“For me, the only way that bladder and bowel issues would be a barrier is if you make them a barrier. I know that some people have a lot more anxiety around their condition than I do, but it’s only a problem if you let it be. I prefer to focus on what I can do rather than what I can’t do. It’s about your outlook as much as anything.”
So, what keeps an award-winning athlete going after five years at the top level?
“There’s an element of escapism to dancing,” Paula explains; “Because you have to concentrate so much on what you’re doing. Being in the moment like that is freeing. Having to really focus on the dancing is relaxing for me. It lets me forget about everything else outside of dancing.
“No matter what you’re training for, you have to treat it the same. Whether it’s an IPC competition in Prague or a demonstration at a school fete, you have to give the same level of commitment.”
Waverly School, Schools Project 2017/18
Our school received 10 wheelchair dance lessons with Michael. We had up to 16 pupils involved each week, with 8 pupils having the further opportunity to participate in the London Youth Games with a showcase piece. Over the 10 weeks it was fabulous to see the pupils involvement grow as they got to learn the songs and showed clear enjoyment of wheelchair dancing through their facial expressions, their smiles and their vocalisations. Our pupils this year all required full adult support to move them in their wheelchairs as none were able to independently move their own wheelchairs. However, over the 10 weeks we all worked hard to establish a real partnership between our pupils and their supporting partners; supporting them with getting to know the dances which for our pupils with severe learning difficulties requires repetition. We also worked to develop clear signals with our partners and this became a big part of our showcase dance; for example a clear touch to our partners right shoulder before turning right. This resulted in a dance that we felt truly proud to show at the London Youth Games at the Copperbox. We all felt our pupils were fully involved and that under Michaels' superb direction we performed a beautiful partner dance. This was further enhanced on the day when due to a technical fault our music failed and our audience of all the other schools competing sang our song for us. It was a really beautiful moment which felt SO inclusive and will remain with us all forever. We were so touched by the complete support of all the competitors and so many people came and told us that our dance was fantastic! Back at school we shared the video with our school and parents so they could see this very special moment!
Building from what we learned with Michael we also went on to prepare a second dance to participate in the Enfield Dance Festival at the Millfield Theatre. Again we worked hard to ensure that this was a partner dance and we responded to our pupils responses. Another very successful dance and again our pupils received a lot of praise. We look forward to sharing this dance with our school.
The benefits for our pupils was immense; they all clearly enjoyed our weekly dance sessions and showed recognition of the songs that we repeated. This is a great skill for our pupils. Social skills were also developed as it was something to enjoy together and celebrate the fun we were all having; a real capture of the joy of dancing. Our two performances were also a fantastic opportunity for our pupils to shine and to receive a great applause on both occasions.
Our staff also learnt much from our lessons. Our pupil's responses encouraged us as their supporting partners to involve them as much as possible, to work really hard at supporting our partners to get to know the dances and to give clear, consistent cues to help our partners understand the next moves. I feel as the teacher of this group that it helped to consolidate all these skills and really put them into practice, which made us much better partners! One of our TA's has also undertaken the wheelchair dance course offering her the opportunity to become a leader. We look forward to the dances we will continue to work on in the future.
We were all (pupils and staff) so proud of what we had achieved and look forward to developing this further for next year. I was so inspired by the support of the competitors at the Copperbox that I would love the opportunity to develop this further with our pupils next year and am looking forward to inviting local secondary schools to do an integration project with a para dancer; with their pupils supporting our pupils to participate; I am excited by this and think it could be an amazing experience for all involved.
Para Dance Inclusive Instructor
Not only does Para Dance UK progress dancers across the UK through both regional and national competitions, as well as developing highly competitive athletes at an international level, the charity also aims to develop and promote dance as an inclusive leisure activity across the country
To do this, Para Dance needs instructors who not only have the dance skills across many different disciplines, from Latin and ballroom to jazz and tap, but who also have a passion for dance that can be passed on to those in attending classes.
Lisa Nixon is a perfect example of such an instructor. Lisa has been an instructor for Para Dance since 2016. Before that, she trained at the Bush Davies School of Theatre Arts and Education and the London Studio Centre – prestigious places to hone a craft that had been part of Lisa’s life for years.
“I started dancing aged four with ballet, tap and gymnastics,” Lisa explains, “I fractured my spine when a space hopper shot out from under me around 7 years of age, and I was lying flat for a full six months.
“After that, I went back to dancing, but took up Latin and ballroom which both include more lateral movements in place of jumping up and down.
“Dancing became a kind of therapy. Even now, no matter what kind of day I am having, when I come out of class I always feel much better.”
Lisa doesn’t hesitate when asked why she thought Para Dance was the ideal organisation to instruct with: “My mother had Parkinson's,” she says, “and, as I lived five hours away from her, I thought that if I trained in my local area it may lead to my good karma going out into the world and someone from her area deciding to train and being able to help my mum.”
That initial reason for getting involved with Para Dance has since led to many more reasons to stay a part of the organisation, and of spreading the joy that Lisa has found in dancing.
“My favourite thing about being a dance instructor?” Lisa muses, “I love it when people realise how much progress they are making. Especially when it is over a short space of time, or when they are suddenly able to do something that has been eluding them.
“I think that there is something particularly special about Para Dance sessions, too,” she adds; “As with all dance sessions, you are transported into a place where all your worries fall away: a brief respite from whatever you are dealing with.
“With Para Dance sessions I feel, more than ever, that you are also transported to a place of equality. Your movement might not be identical to that of the person next to you, but then, neither is your nose!
“We are all unique. Being somewhere that you are able to express yourself and let yourself be immersed in the music fully is priceless. To know that your contribution of movement is valued and accepted as equal to that of anyone else, especially if that is a more creative version, is to be welcomed and cherished.
“Para Dance classes are also the place to realise that everyone has their own struggles. As a participant, sometimes you can see and adopt strategies that others have discovered before you. Sometimes you can even find that, actually, there is someone who looks to you as a model of motivation and determination in order to help them along their own journey.”
And if she had to pick one reason to recommend dancing to everyone? When put on the spot, Lisa smiles; “For me, it is being able to become healthier, happier, and friendlier without realising that you are actually working pretty hard to achieve it.”