Founding Directors and Dance Teachers, Kerry Raymond and Becci Gowers, run an inclusive and accessible dance timetable for young people and adults. They talk about the benefits of dance and the impact their project has had.

We’re both dancers so we know how beneficial dance can be. Music and dance are universal languages; whoever you are and whatever walk of life you’ve come from - dance connects on all levels. It’s so emotive and expressive. It really supports people on a physical level and in your mental health.

We noticed there was a need for dance classes that were accessible. Whether this be for disabled people, people with mental health issues, or for people with learning disabilities. People with additional needs often feel excluded from dance classes which are too fast paced so we set up in an accessible venue where people could feel confident to come along and take part at their own pace.

Soon after we started the project the first Covid-19 lockdown happened and we moved online within a week. Our classes were absolutely vital for some participants during lockdown. It gave people an opportunity to connect with others, get active and have some structure to their day. We just wanted to give people some respite from the anxieties they were facing and now that we’re back together in person we’re working on rebuilding people’s confidence.

The coming back together physically has been tricky but so important for people to have that connection. Around 50 per cent of our participants are extremely vulnerable and some still do not feel comfortable mixing socially due to the risk posed by Covid-19.

The knock on effects of this pandemic are profound for mental health and we see it every day. We have one man who comes dancing who is so anxious about anything health related he often has sleepless nights. Making sure we respect and cater to everyone’s needs and abilities is absolutely crucial and we are so proud of how the participants have used these dance lessons to remain active and positive through a very traumatic time.

We really want to celebrate these people at a time when the world has been against them. These people have been hit harder than anyone can even fathom. Every week when we step into these classes it’s a display of human strength that is amazing and we cannot celebrate them enough.

On a real personal journey, dance helped me during a really hard time with my mental health so I know how much it can help. If we can help people even a little bit with this project that’s what we want to do.

We also have two fantastic young leaders who are our volunteers who have learning disabilities themselves. It has provided a great opportunity for them to have consistent volunteering for two years. Moving forward we want to provide more volunteering opportunities and paid employment so people can be appreciated and acknowledged for their skills and capabilities.

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