Welcome to our blog post on DanceSyndrome, which is a fantastic User Led Organisation that has recently become one of our Tackling Inequalities Fund partners. Sport England set up the Tackling Inequalities Fund in response to Covid-19, to try to help reduce the associated negative impacts on activity levels within the following under-represented groups: lower socio-economic groups, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities (BAME), Disabled people and people with long-term health conditions. DanceSyndrome has recently been awarded funds from Sport England, via the Tackling Inequalities Fund so they can continue to run their inclusive dance sessions, by moving them outdoors, as well as online for their most clinically at-risk participants. This blog is written by Disability Rights UK’s Intern, Cameron Lynch.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, one industry was hit hardest than most. The arts industry was forced to close down shows, studios, and exhibits. Most companies had a choice in how to cope with the loss of audiences and funding in some cases, they could choose to close their doors, or adapt to the era of Zoom and online engagement.
DanceSyndrome is an organisation founded in order to make dance an inclusive environment for everyone. They believe that “everyone deserves to live a life,” making it their mission to ensure that people are able to live their dreams regardless of the structures that are typically limiting in the dance world. They believe that a truly inclusive company includes both people who are Disabled and not Disabled to learn from each other and come together as a community.
They have been able to impact many people and their ability to participate in the arts. DanceSyndrome has been instrumental in allowing people with disabilities to engage in their passions and have an opportunity to have leadership positions within the organisation. They aim to empower and help individuals with learning disabilities to have a voice and a way to express themselves.
When talking to DanceSyndrome dancers, it is easy to see the impact that the company has had on their lives. You can tell how much they love dancing and how it has saved their lives. They simply love to dance. DanceSyndrome gives them the opportunity to express themselves and to follow their passions. They see the opportunity to dance as a chance of freedom and a chance of living their lives.
The impacts of COVID-19 on this DanceSyndrome have been outstanding, but they had no question that they would need to continue engaging with the community in the midst of this pandemic, pushing them to develop a series of programming available through Zoom to continue to engage their dancers. Dancers have claimed that the adaptation to Zoom during the pandemic saved their lives.
The pandemic has shaped many aspects of our future and has posed concerns moving forward. DanceSyndrome has seen a dramatic difference in the mental health of some of their dancers. Dancers have returned to classes more withdrawn and anxious. This pandemic has stirred up problems for the mental health of Disabled individuals, and moving forward companies like Dance Syndrome will be forced to address this issue and help their community to overcome these barriers. Despite this, dancers continue to log on to online classes and adapt to this new system of dancing.
The biggest challenge faced by dancers is time away from their “dance family.” That is the power of DanceSyndrome. They form a family around their passion for dance and a shared experience of adversity and difficulty. DanceSyndrome allows individuals the opportunity to lead, to choreograph, and to perform in a way that is difficult to find. This is the most beautiful part of the company.
We will have to think differently moving forward into a post pandemic age. DanceSyndrome is built on this idea of thinking. The founder, Jen, just wanted to dance. She wanted to pursue her passion for dance, but found that this industry was not created in a way that included her. This needs to change. The exclusion of Disabled individuals is not new, but it is getting old. This pandemic is giving us the opportunity to move into a society that is more inclusive. It has been proven that the technology is in place to allow people to participate regardless of situation and accessibility needs.
Through this transition into an online environment, DanceSyndrome has had new members join them as well. The Zoom format has presented them an opportunity to expand their geographical reach and engage people all around the country. By switching to Zoom and YouTube immediately instead of pausing programming due to the pandemic, they were able to continue allowing their patrons to keep moving and active during the months indoors.
There was of course a learning curve associated with the Zoom format, but members of DanceSyndrome are flexible. They learned how to adapt and knew that they had to stay connected. These dancers do not give up, they love dancing and know that this is their calling. They have a connection with each other, and not even a global pandemic can separate this dance family.