Dance opens the door for people living with disability

June 27, 2022

‘Dance is my life’, is the mantra of CatholicCare Disability Futures participant, Kayla Donaldson. For Kayla, dance has been a pathway to expression and recognition. Kayla has travelled the world, competing as a dancer, performed locally in theatre companies and been the face of television commercials while strutting her dance ability. Kayla, along with a talented and exuberant group of friends, meet twice weekly as members of our Disability Futures Dance & Sports Academy day program, to practice and learn more about the wonderful world of dance.

Using a bright and airy dance studio at The Entrance on the Central Coast, CatholicCare’s Dance & Sports Academy works with young people with intellectual and mild physical disabilities, to share a range of dance styles including hip hop, ballet, contemporary dance, musical theatre, Broadway jazz dance and yoga.  These classes assist regular participants to build real skills, improve their physicality and fitness but also, importantly provide social connection, and mental health wellbeing. While some like Kayla, are experienced dancers, the program caters for beginners, too. The only prerequisite to dance, is a love of movement, music and performance!

To ensure the highest level of learning, the program is staffed by experienced professional dance and performance staff who share a passion for disability arts. Says Courtney our program leader, “Not a day goes by, when I don’t come in excited to teach and support our dancers to find their best selves through dance. I feel inspired by the growth of our company members who are now getting ready as members of our performance team, Futures Dance Company, to dance on stage.”

Of course, the CatholicCare difference, a strong focus on care and compassion, is evident in the staff’s attitude and alive in the supportive and friendly exchanges between everyone at the academy. Wellbeing, positive social relationships and caring communication are all areas reinforced daily in the academy program curriculum.

While performance opportunities during COVID have been lean, the group were able to deal with the challenges of the pandemic by meeting online via zoom to continue their training and keep the very important social connections alive. “While many of our participants are vulnerable to coronavirus (COVID-19) because of their disability”, says Coordinator Michelle, “we have had the flexibility to be able to maintain consistent classes via zoom when it has been difficult to meet in person. We continue to have this flexible and responsive approach to protect the health of our dancers into the future.”

Now, back in the studio, the dancers are excited for the days ahead. They are building a repertoire of performance pieces and sharing ideas around costuming and stage makeup. Many of our dancers enjoy portraying larger than life characters on stage, and thrive when taking on roles from well known stage shows and musicals. Male performer, Greg Yeo loves nothing more that playing the character of Corny Collins from the musical, Hairspray while dancers swirl around him. “He is filled with confidence and joy as he plays up to the other dancers in the group”, relates dance support, Lynette. A wink and smile from Greg lets us know he is in full agreement.

Dance is indeed a universal language that bridges the gap between abilities. It allows us to tell our personal stories, express our ideas and break down barriers. If you, or someone with a disability you know is a dancer or would like to be a dancer, contact us on (02) 9488 2500 or email disabilityfutures@catholiccaredbb.org.au.

 

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