A Fairy Tale for The Greatest Dancer

Step Change Studios returns to the Lilian Baylis Studio at Sadler’s Wells to present Fairy Tales: a ballroom-inspired show which brings together 20 disabled and non-disabled artists from the UK to present original dance. New to this year’s cast is Andrew Self. Passionate about ballroom dance, Andrew came to public attention on BBC’s The Greatest Dancer. Andrew tells us about preparing for his Sadler’s Wells debut and shares his passion for dance.

Hi Andrew, could you tell us a bit about yourself?

I am a 22 year-old student at The Orpheus Centre, which is a specialist college for young disabled adults with a passion for the performing arts. My love of ballroom dance began when I was 11 years old and I started watching the TV show Strictly Come Dancing. I thought it was brilliant and would copy all the moves from the telly.

Tell us about your dance experience.

I absolutely love dancing, especially performing. I dance wherever I can find the opportunity. I learn different styles of dance but mainly focus on ballroom and contemporary. Dancing makes me feel happy, fit and free. I have Down’s Syndrome but I like to call it Dance Syndrome. It can mean that I sometimes find things a bit tricky to learn and have to work harder but it doesn’t stop me doing anything. I have found that the best teachers are people who support me to learn by taking things slowly, being patient, giving me visual prompts such as using video to help me learn, and making sure I’ve understood what I have to do. Most importantly, I love to be challenged.

Andrew Self. Image: Sophie Mayanne

You auditioned for Fairy Tales – what was that like?

I was really looking forward to auditioning for Fairy Tales. I wanted to do something different and the opportunity sounded exciting. I was delighted to show Rashmi, the Producer of Fairy Tales, my moves. We danced some waltz and cha-cha together and then I was invited to show other dance styles, so I demonstrated some foxtrot and a paso doble. When Rashmi told me I was going to be in the show I was very excited – it was Fairytaletastic!

How are rehearsals for Fairy Tales going?

I couldn’t wait to start rehearsals. I am learning a duet and will be dancing with a professional ballroom dancer Clair to the song Someone to Watch Over Me. For me, the story is about an angel looking after me. Sometimes we dance the same moves apart and sometimes we dance together. I adore the music because it reminded me of my Nan. It makes me feel peaceful and emotional and a little bit thoughtful.

Andrew Self. Image: David White

My rehearsals have been going well and I am really enjoying preparing the piece. Clair is the best dance partner. The choreography is challenging and I am finding the turns quite tricky but I improve in every session. I practice with videos taken during the rehearsals. Rashmi also sends me written tips of things to practice and think about in between. I am feeling very excited about the show and can’t wait to get on stage with a live audience! My Orpheus dance teacher is coming to see me and is looking forward to seeing how I do with my ballroom holds and steps.

What advice would you give to disabled people looking to start dancing?

My advice for people with disabilities that want to dance but might be nervous or think it is not for them is to just go for it, have fun and be resilient. It’s amazing what can happen when you follow your passions. My absolute dream would be to dance on Strictly Come Dancing but the fairy tale for me is to keep dancing.

Image: David White

Step Change Studios present Fairy Tales in the Lilian Baylis Studio at Sadler’s Wells on 27 June. Tickets are available now priced at £17 and concessions at £8.50, by calling the Ticket Office on 020 7863 8000 or book online.