In 2018, DanceSyndrome has been fortunate to be able to celebrate our 5th anniversary of being a registered charity. As part of our celebrations we are sharing memories and highlights from those 5 years to demonstrate how far we have come in that time, and how much potential there is for the future.
But to only celebrate those 5 years would mean leaving out a significant part of DanceSyndrome’s history and the foundations for our future success. Prior to 2013 when we received charitable status, there had been 4 years of hard work, investment and dedication from those people who have been with us since the very start of our journey, so we just want to acknowledge the impact that those early years had on the shape of the organisation we all know and love today!
Here is a brief history of the early years before DanceSyndrome became a registered charity.
DanceSyndrome Founder Jen Blackwell happens to have Down’s syndrome. She went to a mainstream high school and when leaving school in 1999 she was determined that she wanted to turn her passion for dance into a career as a community dance leader.
With the support of her parents Sue and Malcolm, Jen embarked on what would eventually become a 10 year search for the right training and opportunities to enable her to follow her dream. It became apparent that nobody was offering exactly what Jen needed – an inclusive structured opportunity spanning several years where she could be treated as an equal whilst still having the appropriate support that she needed as the result of her disability. As they searched fruitlessly, it became clear that Jen wasn’t the only person looking for such opportunities.
With the support of her parents, Jen formed the dance company DanceSyndrome in 2009 and it was officially constituted and registered as a limited company. Funding applications were made to several organisations, including Awards for All. The following year Jen advertised for dancers and got over 100 enquiries! Now she was in control! She selected 14 dancers to work with, half of whom had learning disabilities. Together they learned how to communicate through inclusive dance, meeting once a month for a full day rehearsal in Manchester.
2011 was a fundamental part of the story as this is when DanceSyndrome began to trial its unique delivery style of a Dance Leader with a learning disability co-leading with the support of a professional Dance Artist. In their monthly dance development sessions, the dancers worked hard to develop a toolbox of delivery techniques so that any Dance Leader could successfully work with any Dance Artist, enabling everyone to be included and everyone was given the opportunity to lead. Funded by an Awards for All grant, more than 70 workshops were delivered in this way and this unique, empowering, inclusive style of delivery is something that has been fundamental to our later success.
This theme continued into 2012, when the group had a strong leadership training focus. Jen invited inclusive Dance Artist Rachel Liggitt to work with the dancers to deliver dance skills and inclusive dance leader training. Inclusive leadership training has gone on to be one of our flagship services and is now the focus of our current Big Lottery funded project, with a view to extending this offer across the UK in the future, so this point in time was crucial to the way DanceSyndrome moved forward.
2012 also saw the first regular inclusive community dance workshops delivered by DanceSyndrome’s newly trained Dance Leaders. With funding from Lancashire County Council, these were delivered in Kirkham and Fylde and Wyre on a weekly basis for over a year.
The final piece of the DanceSyndrome puzzle also fell into place in 2012. The core performance team was working hard to deliver high quality performance pieces and during this year they gave high profile performances at the Lowry and the Manchester day parade. Part of the success of the performance team came through the recognition at this time that several members of the team benefitted from working in much smaller groups. This led to the development of some duet and quartet performance pieces which not only expanded DanceSyndrome’s repertoire and performance potential but also provided vital personal and professional development opportunities for the dancers who were involved. Again, this change in approach has heavily influenced the way that DanceSyndrome works with our performance artists today.
As you can see from this brief history of those early days of DanceSyndrome, a lot of really important foundations were laid in this time and the future success of DanceSyndrome as a charity has certainly been the result of the input of so many people who gave up their time, resources and money in those early days, so we really must thank all of those people!
If you are inspired by the story of how DanceSyndrome has grown and evolved, there are lots of ways you can contribute to the future of our charity. We are always looking for volunteers who can make a contribution, whether that is as support in workshops, as a member of our performance team, filming or photographing performances and events, or in an administrative role. You can find out more on the Volunteers page of our website.
We also need charity fundraisers and donations to enable us to continue to fund the work that we do. You can find out more on our Just Giving page.