As we come to the end of the first year of our Spirit of 2012 funded project, we are collecting together lots of evidence to demonstrate the impact of our work. We wanted to share this amazing case study about Dance Leader Becky Rich, who has truly exceeded all expectations this year!
2016-17 Case Study: Becky Rich
Becky Rich is 26 years old and has been involved with DanceSyndrome since 2014. Becky completed DanceSyndrome’s unique “Dance By Example” training course in the first year that it was delivered. Since then, the training course has been developed and refined and in October 2016 it was delivered for the first time as a Level 1 qualification. It was felt that Becky would be an ideal candidate for the new qualification and the last 12 months have seen Becky go from strength to strength in so many different ways.
Becky has clearly demonstrated increased wellbeing this year. She genuinely loves her work with DanceSyndrome and clearly gets a lot of enjoyment from it when you see her leading and performing. Speaking about her life with DanceSyndrome she said ” We have lots of fun together in everything we do. We’re having the time of our lives. I am very thankful and grateful.” However, the most obvious demonstration of her increased wellbeing is the friendship she has recently formed with DanceSyndrome Founder Jen Blackwell. They have a very unique bond and truly understand and care for each other, something which has been translated into a new duet performance which they are currently choreographing and rehearsing, with an aim of performing it publicly in the very near future. Becky describes this relationship with real passion, “I am so lucky to have a heartfelt friendship with the Founder of the charity. She means everything to me. We love performing together and bringing joy and happiness to people. I want to help her to fulfil her dream of travelling around the world dancing in different countries and educating them about acceptance and to end discrimination once and for all.”
Helping to bring about a positive change in perception of disabled people in the community is something that Becky has become increasingly passionate about over the past year. She has attended several conferences and events in the past year, giving speeches about the importance of challenging perceptions of disabled people and enabling true inclusion. She also gave a speech at DanceSyndrome’s March Board Meeting which was broadcast live on social media (https://www.facebook.com/dancerleddisabilityinspired/videos/1372213976132642/). Speaking about the importance of challenging perceptions, Becky said “Together we show the power of love, joy and happiness and show that people with disabilities can dance, express themselves and have freedom. We show people that people with disabilities can be included and accepted in society and reach out to people and give them better lives. We want to reach out to people and help them to dance and have better lives.”
An important way that DanceSyndrome attempts to challenge perceptions of disabled people is by enabling our dance leaders to actively participate in activities in the community. Becky volunteers regularly with DanceSyndrome and has attended over 20 outreach activities and special events since September 2016 (something she was not involved with prior to the start of the Spirit of 2012 project). These activities have reached many diverse audiences, from workshops with children with autism to activities in care homes for older people, charity fundraising and awareness raising events to mainstream dance festivals . Speaking about these types of events she said “I love how I see the people believing in themselves and being accepted into society which is not easy in general for people with special needs and disabilities.”
(Image: Becky performing at an awareness event on Down’s Syndrome Awareness Day 2017 (second from right))
As well as these events, Becky is becoming truly integrated in the community by running a weekly session in a day centre, on a voluntary basis, which is completely independent of DanceSyndrome. She is a real advocate for the benefits of volunteering. In November 2016 she was chosen as Volunteer of the Year at the Lancashire County Council Pride awards and in early 2017 she was signed up as a spokesperson for the Lancashire Volunteer Partnership, with her story being used in advertisements, social media videos and billboard posters (Her story can be read on their website here: https://lancsvp.org.uk/about-lvp/our-featured-volunteers/).
Becky has always had a positive attitude towards participation but she is becoming increasingly inspired by her involvement with DanceSyndrome and demonstrates real pride in the work she does for us. She continues to push herself to participate in different aspects of the work the DanceSyndrome does, expanding from dance leadership to public speaking, talking to journalists and marketing performances. November 2016 was Becky’s first performance in DanceSyndrome’s Orbit production and by August 2017 she was out on the streets of Edinburgh talking to people about the Edinburgh Fringe Festival shows and encouraging them to come and witness the power of inclusive dance. She said “We were very touched by the positive response that we received when handing out our flyers on the Royal Mile to promote our show. Also we had fantastic audiences on both days which made it really special for us as performers and we think we really connected with the audiences in a special way. We all had a very special and fun time in Edinburgh.”
(Image: Becky is interviewed in Edinburgh by a journalist from “Humans of the Fringe“)
"I'm from DanceSyndrome. This year we are putting a show on for the Orbit tour. It represents everything like…
The way that Becky throws herself into all aspects of DanceSyndrome’s work, advocates for other people with disabilities, speaks out about inclusion and challenges perceptions of disabled people makes her a true role model that inspires others. But she is taking this even further by inspiring the other dance leaders to also speak out and have their voices heard through a new initiative called the DanceSyndrome Select Team. The Select Team is a focus group style meeting which gives the members (Dance Leaders and their families/support) the opportunity to discuss issues such as inclusion, community involvement, dreams/aspirations and potential opportunities for the future. The outcomes of the meetings are then shared via the DanceSyndrome blog (http://dancesyndrome.co.uk/dancesyndrome-launches-select-team/) to enable the voices to be heard outside of the forum too. Becky explains how she helped to initiate the formation of this group, “I know my fellow leaders should have every right to have a voice and express their views about the world we live in and how things can be changed. Our lives are difficult to change so I decided to take action straight away. I spoke to Dawn (DanceSyndrome Managing Director) about forming a sub-board which I have called “DanceSyndrome Select Team”. We held the first meeting and I heard the voices of my fellow leaders. What touched me most was when I heard the excitement and enjoyment in their voices. Being offered this opportunity to be heard is a dream come true.”
— DanceSyndrome (@DanceSyndrome) August 28, 2017
Becky has become much more engaged with DanceSyndrome and the community in the course of the first year of the Spirit of 2012 project. She is very proud of her contribution to DanceSyndrome’s work and is becoming increasingly excited about the future. She said ” I love dancing for the people knowing my dance teaching will leave them smiling, it is very touching for me knowing that they are having a good time. I feel great when we perform together with my fellow leaders and we get the job done. I am performing in great places with my fellow leaders and we get standing ovations everywhere we go. People leave feeling happy and smiling. The joy we bring to their faces everywhere is very touching for me, it will stay with me for the rest of my life. Nothing can stop us now!”
(Image: Becky, DanceSyndrome Founder Jen Blackwell and Dance Artist Donna Harrison at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival)
If you’re inspired by Becky’s story and would like to join DanceSyndrome as a volunteer or participant, please get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org