Disabled dancers to smash stereotypes in front of live audience at Porchester Hall

Tap above to watch video report by Rachael Brown

A group of disabled dancers is smashing stereotypes by performing in front of a live audience for the first time at Porchester Hall.

The performers live with conditions including sight loss, autism and dementia and say the dancefloor gives them an outlet to express themselves.

Finalist, Ayuna, said: "Until the age of 15, I was healthy and lived an active and happy life.

"I feel nothing has changed except I am now a wheelchair user. I mysteriously developed an inflammation of the spinal cord in the thoracic spine and as a result lost sensation in half of my body.

"However, I feel lucky to have met incredible people around the world. Before my injury, I used to ballroom dance and have since dreamed of returning to the dance floor.

"Now I have finally succeeded!"

Hishaam, who is 13 years old and has autism is dancing to Bollywood music and has been practicing with his traditional 'dandiya' sticks.

Hishaam, who is 13 years old and has autism, practices his dance Credit: ITV News

His parents said: "Hishaam is our only child. He was born healthy and reached all his milestones up to the age of two.

"We became concerned as he grew older, moving from saying single words to becoming silent.

"He has come a long way since then and we are extremely proud of his achievements. Dance has especially helped him gain confidence and to express his emotions and we are all excited to see him perform."

The event is part of an initiative led by the inclusive dance company Step Change Studios and Westminster City Council.

"78% of disabled people say their impairment or condition stops them being active, yet 8 in 10 want to be more active," said founder Rashmi Becker MBE.

"The pandemic led to less support and increasing barriers relating to health and fitness for disabled people with less than 3 in 10 disabled people wanting to return to physical activity after the pandemic.

"Now in its third year, Dance Westminster targets disabled people who lack opportunities to be active and who stand to gain the biggest benefits to their wellbeing. "We know from the popularity of shows like Strictly, how much the nation loves dancing. It is wonderful to see our finalists dancing standing, seated, with their Zimmer frames and sensory props and getting lost in the music.

"Dancing is something everyone should be able to enjoy and I hope initiatives like this help challenge perceptions of who can dance and lead to more diversity in dance - from community to professional level."

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