The Surprise of My Life by Kate Stanforth

The Surprise of My Life by Kate Stanforth

A very tiny Kate tip-toed into her first ballet class at the age of two.  I can’t quite remember my first years of ballet but I can remember when I truly started falling in love with dance.  I soon decided my only goal was to be on stage.  By the age of eight, I started training to be a professional ballet dancer.  For a young girl, it was a strenuous training programme.  It involved waking up at 5am to fit in practice before school and seven hours a day rehearsing at the weekend, but it was what I needed to do to achieve my dream.  My whole life was dance, dance, dance.

The HBlonde female in wheelchair smilingealth Battle

At 14 I suddenly became unwell.  My busy dancing schedule very quickly turned into becoming bedbound.  This was just the start of my health issues and unfortunately, I never recovered fully.  We are now 12 years on.  Those 12 years haven’t been easy and I now have complex, and life-long, health conditions.  I didn’t think I was ever going to be able to dance again.  I worked extremely hard to get my dance teacher qualification as a wheelchair user; something you don’t come across very often.  I now teach something I fall in love with even more each session and I’ve especially found my niche in inclusive dance.

Accessible Studio

One thing I have continuously struggled with was finding an accessible dance studio.  I was very lucky to come across ex-Olympian, Craig Heap, who opened Tumble GymnasFemale wheelchair user teaching ballet dance class tics and Activity Centre.  He thankfully made it very accessible.  He also kindly offered me a room to use for my students.  This new centre meant parents wouldn’t have to carry my wheelchair upstairs while I dragged my legs up each step behind them.  I finally wouldn’t be exhausted before I even started my class!

The Surprise of My Life

On Friday 11th September, I went to the centre to film with my friend Demi Donnelly.  I thought we were filming a fundraiser to help transform the studio I was using into a ‘proper’ dance studio and to make the rest of the building more accessible.  As we entered the room upstairs, which previously was a box room with a carpet and bare walls, I got the surprise of my life. The door opened to applause and the space had been transformed!  It had a mural on the wall with ‘Kate Stanforth Academy of Dance’, mirrors, glass doors to let light in and even a TV to connect my online classes.  I sobbed and sobbed.  Demi, Craig and a whole team had made something I couldn’t have even dreamed of.

This accessible space allows me to continue dancing, choreographing and teaching in a safe environment.  I’m still in shock but I have big plans so that as many people as possible, especially the disabled, can benefit from accessible and inclusive dance.  And, I cannot wait to share my journey with you!

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