inclusive dance

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.

NYDC and Corali deliver inclusive workshops inspired by dance film

Last summer, National Youth Dance Company (NYDC) teamed with Corali Dance Company to create a short dance film. It was directed by Paul Davidson, a Corali dancer who has been with NYDC for two years.

Paul has autism and was interested in creating a piece of art with an inclusive cast of disabled and non-disabled dancers. The film and accompanying documentary were created over a three-day residency. The final result was Escape the Nowhere, a piece following a young man trapped in a maze that creatively explores the idea of parallel co-existing perspectives and realities.

With the finished product in hand, Sadler’s Wells have worked with Paul, NYDC alumni and Corali to develop a two-hour workshop that uses the film as a stimulus for the making and exploration of new movement. In tandem, the film was screened across the country enjoying success at venues and events from Croydon to Durham.

Zara Rush, Creative Producer at Corali Dance Company was optimistic the partnership: “Corali Dance Company were delighted to act as inclusive lead for this partnership with NYDC. The project grew from strength to strength and enabled young people to find their artistic voice, take the lead and share practice. It’s been great to see how young dancers across the country have gone on to explore the themes from Escape the Nowhere in the projects legacy workshops and how they’ve made new creative discoveries for themselves.”

You can see the video documenting the creation process here:

The workshop series was delivered in tandem with key regional partners. Magpie Dance were the first to experience the session and their co-Artistic Director Natasha Britton has spoken about the experience

“We were thrilled to welcome NYDC alumni Paul and Kennedy, who delivered two-hour workshops to both our junior and youth groups on day one of our Easter intensive.

The workshops were confidently delivered and rich with creative challenges, all pitched at an appropriate level for our dancers with learning disabilities. The creative tasks they chose all linked back to the dance film made by Paul, Escape the Nowhere. Having watched the film, this allowed our participants to really engage with the theme and the process.

After the workshops, the facilitators at Magpie Dance supported the Easter School participants to further develop the ideas they had explored, leading to the creation of their own piece. At the end of the third and final day, family and friends were invited to watch Escape the Nowhere and our piece inspired by it. The participants and their families were hugely grateful for the opportunity to use such a powerful dance film as a stimulus and work with such exciting visitors.”

Click through to learn more about Corali Dance Company and Magpie Dance

Photo credit: Natasha Mansfield-Osborne
Video credit: Tobi Meneses