Chris: “Performing made me feel confident”

Published: 13th September 2023
Chris, a Look Ahead customer with a learning disability has built up his confidence through the medium of dance.

Chris (left) and his fellow customer "dropping the mic" during their performance.

Chris, a Look Ahead customer, has been taking part in therapeutic dance sessions using dance movement psychotherapy techniques and approaches from his home at one of our learning disability supported living services.

‘I enjoyed seeing other customers do the dance moves that I had taught them. I felt like I had a lot of choice with the dancing and music. I also enjoyed spending more time with the people I live with, and also meeting new people’ he says.

The sessions, attended by some 70 customers, were part of a project called AnyBODY Can Dance, created and led by Georgina Caird, a Look Ahead support worker and Dance Movement Psychotherapy trainee at the University of Roehampton.

With choice and autonomy at the core of this project, customers were able to build confidence and grow social skills, ensuring they feel empowered to express themselves creatively, and have fun together,’ Georgina explains.

AnyBODY Can Dance focused on creating spaces where participants can communicate and participate non-verbally as well as verbally, creating more accessible opportunities and limiting barriers by holding the workshops directly at the services where Look Ahead customers live.

The initiative was also co-developed with customers, and Chris was chosen as one of three customer leads. As an ‘Expert by Experience,’ Chris input his own ideas for decorations for his performance and organised extra support for his service. ‘It was easy getting people involved in art making for the show and to do extra rehearsals. I enjoyed having the responsibility,’ Chris says.

AnyBODY Can Dance culminated at a well-attended event in Whitechapel, East London where over 40 customers from 10 Look Ahead learning disability and mental health services performed for their peers and family members.

The project was funded through Disability Rights UK from Sport England, with their Together Fund. Look Ahead’s corporate partner, chapmanbdsp also donated on the performance day held at the Brady Arts and Community Centre, ensuring the day was enjoyed by all, both performers and audience.

Chris shared his feelings after the show, saying ‘I felt happy at the performance, I liked seeing people in the audience get excited by my dancing. It made me feel confident.’

While James, a support worker who works closely with Chris added, It was really great, not just the fact that they’re dancing, not just the creativity, but in terms of fitness also. It gave the customers more energy and they felt good for the rest of the day. It felt like it had a lot of different benefits not just the direct dancing itself.’