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.
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.
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 Gymnastics 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!