Sarah Stewart joined DanceSyndrome as a volunteer in September 2018 and took part in Dance by Example training from October 2018 to May 2019. She also completed an Inclusive Approaches workshop in October 2018. She is now a valued member of the DS Collective team, which is a fully inclusive group where dancers with and without disabilities work together. Here, Sarah describes in her own words why being a part of DanceSyndrome has been so valuable to her.

“From my first telephone conversation with DanceSyndrome’s Managing Director, Dawn Vickers, and then meeting with her, I felt very welcome. Dawn was full of knowledge and enthusiasm, explaining to me what DanceSyndrome was all about. I knew, from her manner, it was an environment where I would feel welcome and valued.

“Dawn introduced me to Lead Artist Sophie Tickle, who enthusiastically welcomed me into the group. I instantly felt at ease and was so touched by how lovely everyone was, as they treated me as if I’d been part of the group for a while. I strongly feel that this is down to the inclusive, safe, and supportive environment that everyone in DanceSyndrome seeks to create.

“The Dance by Example course, co-delivered by Sophie Tickle and Dance Leader Peter Pamphlett, built upon my dance training in Ballroom, Latin, and Rock n’ Roll by providing me with invaluable experience of expressive movement and contemporary dance. The course exceeded my expectations. I learned a variety of skills such as; inclusive dance teacher practice; the use of language; communication delivery; classroom dynamics; how to choreograph to music; how to develop a lesson plan for various ages, abilities, and backgrounds; how to fuse dance with education for schools and community groups; how to use props; how to develop ice breaker dance activities; how to adapt dance moves and sequences to enhance inclusivity; and how to integrate and fuse different dance genres together.

“I thoroughly enjoyed every class, which always left me bursting with creative ideas for the future. There were three ‘highlights’ which left a lasting impression on me. The first was working together as a whole group and choreographing a warm-up routine to George Ezra’s ‘Shotgun’. It was a proud moment for us all when we delivered it to each other every week. By learning the methods of how to choreograph to music, and how to deliver the routine both verbally and non-verbally, my confidence was enhanced. The course also gave me experience of co-delivery, which produced my second highlight: working with Peter Pamphlett and Tommy, a fellow learner on the course. Peter advised us on how to choreograph a dance piece which involved the use of props. This was very new to me and I enjoyed working with Peter and Tommy in learning how to incorporate props into dance routines. This work enhanced my own creativity and I learned new ways to enhance my imagination. The imaginative flair encouraged by DanceSyndrome produced my third highlight: a dance both Tommy and I choreographed together. By using Tommy’s favourite sport, boxing, as a metaphor we created a dance to portray the highs and lows of everyday life. This was a wonderful experience. Both of us had different interests but we compromised and worked together so we could feel connected to each other, the dance and music we chose. Furthermore, in developing the routine I learned how to use themes in order to build upon creative choreography.

“Peter Pamphlett was incredible at giving me advice as to how I could adapt disciplined dance steps and sequences into creative and expressive movement, which is accessible to all. By sharing his vision and creativity with me, it enhanced my learning process. He is extremely helpful at all times.

“Sophie Tickle goes above and beyond to create a safe, supportive, and encouraging environment for each and every one of us. She was the lynchpin of the course and I believe she is what every dance teacher should aspire to be. She is highly professional; not just in her creativity as a dancer, performer, and choreographer, but as a teacher and mentor too. I feel grateful to have been taught by her during this course, and to still be learning from her as I continue to volunteer at DanceSyndrome.

“As a 33 year old with a family, who already has a university degree in history, it is important to highlight the incredible opportunity I have been given by DanceSyndrome to be trained in contemporary and expressive dance. Without DanceSyndrome, learning and receiving training in dance wouldn’t have been an option for me. This demonstrates the extent to which DanceSyndrome can help to make dreams come true by helping with career development, enhancing self-belief and self-worth, and building confidence – not only in dancing but with social dynamics too. DanceSyndrome goes further than boosting physical health. They are making a huge contribution to promoting emotional and mental wellbeing.

“Following completion of the Dance by Example course, and with the support and encouragement of Sophie Tickle, I have been inspired to continue with my volunteering at DanceSyndrome. I’m currently delivering short bite size teaching sessions in order to build up my confidence. Through my volunteering and the Dance by Example course, I have realised that my passion lies in dance and mental health.

“I have learned so much over this past year and I am still only at the very beginning. I’m certain I will learn so much more as I continue to achieve and challenge myself in DanceSyndrome’s safe, inclusive and supportive environment. DanceSyndrome has not only taught me dance skills, it has taught me important life skills too. I now appreciate what inclusive teaching practice is and the value of an inclusive learning environment. This has been hugely beneficial to the quality of my life in terms of assessing other learning environments for myself and my son.”

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