Published: 1 July 2021
After workshops, auditions and rehearsals, ten Dance Westminster finalists get their close up on film to be broadcast on 15 July.
This year’s Dance Westminster finalists will be showcased through film. This is a first-time experience for participants who have physical and intellectual disabilities. Through a mix of online and in-person coaching, these stars in our community have been sharing their passion for dance and challenging perceptions of who can dance.
The footage of the ten finalists performing their dances at the iconic Porchester Hall will create a film which will be broadcast on the Active Westminster YouTube channel on 15 July, enabling the general public to take a virtual front row seat and vote for 2021’s Dance Westminster Champion. At the same time, the dancing stars and their families will be treated to an exclusive screening.
Led by ActiveWestminster and Step Change Studios, an award-winning accessible dance company, Dance Westminster is the city’s annual dance competition designed to encourage disabled people to become more active.
Disabled people are twice as likely to be physically inactive compared with those without a disability. COVID-19 has exacerbated this, with disabled people at three times greater health risk from the virus and 56% being worried about leaving their home during this time to be active.
The scheme forms part of Westminster City Council’s commitment to promote a wide variety of attractive and accessible opportunities, which encourage people to take part in physical activity, leisure and sport at any and every level.
Rashmi Becker, founder of Step Change Studios and recently recognised with an MBE for services to disabled people said:
It is really heartening to see how disabled people in our community have adapted and brought such enthusiasm to learning in a very different way in light of the Covid-19 challenges. They have embraced learning to dance online and managing the different restrictions with real-life lessons. This makes it all the more impressive how well they have developed and how much fun they have continued to have being creative and active.
Adrienne Armorer, who has Multiple Sclerosis and is one of the finalists said:
For me, dance is a way to express myself. This outlet was particularly important for me during my career as a software engineer and I'm grateful that losing my mobility in 2007 has not stopped me from dancing. It's great exercise, challenges my memory and boosts my confidence. I've never entered a dance competition before. I could never have imagined I'd be able to do such a thing using a wheelchair and I hope this is the first of many. Set your sights high and never give up.
Dance Westminster is only in its second year but the organisers recognise that disabled people, many of whom have had to self-isolate for extended periods of time, value the positive physical and mental benefits that the project brings.
To ensure the competition could take place, disabled people were invited to join virtual dance workshops and members of the community from care homes, disability groups, schools and colleges took part and submitted 30 second audition clips. Ten finalists were selected and matched with a professional dance partner to prepare their dance performance for the finalist competition. Dance lessons were held through a combination of Zoom and socially distanced sessions in person.
Building on the success of Dance Westminster, the council and Step Change Studios are setting up three permanent dance programmes for disabled people so that those who did not make the final this year can still take part and experience the positive impacts of dance.
Councillor Melvyn Caplan, Deputy Leader of Westminster City Council said:
Dance Westminster is an initiative that we are all very proud of. It showcases immense talent and proves what disabled people can achieve if the right opportunities are provided. After COVID-19 lockdowns, it has been so important to find ways to boost physical and mental wellbeing.
Dance Westminster is a unique initiative that requires dedication and brings joy to participants, their families, friends and all those involved. I’m so pleased we are able to make Dance Westminster a more permanent offering through three new programmes. I can’t wait to watch the finals film on 15 July, when I’m sure many of us will be inspired to put on our dancing shoes and get active.
You can also see some of the finalists perform live in front of Westminster Cathedral as part of SouthWestFest, which is an award-winning community and cultural festival taking place in July involving over 100 free online and in person events across South Westminster.
To find out more about ways to stay active in Westminster, read more at ActiveWestminster.