Youngsters with disabilities dance

ACCESSIBLE DANCE: Front to back, Tara Coughran, Julie Barratt, Suzanne Whiteman and Robyn Brady.
ACCESSIBLE DANCE: Front to back, Tara Coughran, Julie Barratt, Suzanne Whiteman and Robyn Brady.

SPRINGING into holiday dance workshops at the Alstonville Dance Studio for the first time ever, will be dancers - or would-be dancers - with disabilities.

"As far as we know there have never been any dance workshops locally presented specifically for people with disabilities," studio director and dance teacher Suzanne Whiteman told The Echo.

"This is open to people in wheelchairs, people with autism or with any form of disability. This is our first one and we're hoping to make it annual or bi-annual."

The Immersion Workshops are being supported by a Delineate grant administered by Accessible Arts NSW - a grant brokered by Northern Rivers Accessible Arts officer Julie Barratt of Alstonville.

Julie recently won an "excellence in regional innovations" award from the Minister for Disability Services, Andrew Constance. For the workshops, Suzanne has set aside the first two days of the first week of the holidays to work with disabled young dancers, preparing them to join the mainstream dancers for the last three days of the workshop.

One of the participants will be 17-year-old Tara Coughlin, of Ballina, a dancer with Down syndrome who spends most of her week practising contemporary, jazz, and hip hop dance.

Tara has been dancing since she was four. After a successful performance in a hip-hop troupe at the Lismore Eisteddfod, Tara will perform solo today (Thursday, September 20) before joining the Alstonville workshops as a dance assistant next week.

Tara also will perform her first solo contemporary dance work, a piece that will illustrate the story of her overwhelming desire to dance at the Arts Activated 2012 Desire and Destination conference in Sydney in October. It's a one-of-a-kind arts and disability event, showcasing leading examples of inclusive arts practice from around Australia and overseas.

The Immersion Workshops for dancers with disabilities will be held next Monday and Tuesday, September 24 and 25. Those students then will be encouraged to attend the following three days of Integration Workshops with mainstream dancers.

For the full five days, the cost is $100, negotiable to a daily rate. Phone 6686 2520 or email alstonvilledancestudio

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