The dreams of a dance leader with Down’s Syndrome are coming true after ten years of rejection.
Not only has Chorley’s Jen Blackwell just stared in a short film about her journey with dance that premiered at a major art centre in Manchester, she is also set to take her dance troupe to Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
The 35-year-old has been dancing since she could walk but since entering adulthood she has found it difficult to find opportunities to train and work in dance.
She spent 10 years knocking on doors and being rejected – so she decided to take matters into her own hands and set up a community dance project in 2009 – which saw the birth of DanceSyndrome – now an award winning charity.
Eight years later, DanceSyndrome is going from strength to strength, with workshops across Lancashire and Greater Manchester and Jen’s dreams of being a dancer and dance leader are a reality.
The short film starring Jen, Superabled, by filmmaker Natalie Kennedy was shown to a packed audience at HOME in Manchester before the main feature Down and Out – about brotherhood, independence and disability.
After the films, DanceSyndrome performed at the aftershow party to a crowded room and got everyone up dancing.
Jen, who won Inspirational Women of the Year award in 2015 at the Enterprise Vision Awards, said: “It was amazing to be at HOME with my friends and family, my dreams are coming true, and I am looking forward to Edinburgh Fringe festival. Dancing is my life.”
Filmmaker Natalie said prior to this work, she had never worked with anybody with Down’s Syndrome but it has now sparked a passion in her to show that having a disability should not be a barrier to what you want to achieve in life.
She added: “I was nervous about starting the work at first but DanceSyndrome are like my other family now.
“I absolutely love working with them, what they do is very powerful.
“I am not normally a get up and dance person – but DanceSyndrome makes me want to move.”
Jen, along with the rest of DanceSyndrome are now preparing for Edinburgh Fringe Festival with rehearsals and fundraising activities.
Jen’s parents Sue and Malcolm Blackwell, who have always supported their daughter to realise her dreams, said they found watching Jen at HOME ‘surreal’ but are very proud of her achievements.
Sue added: “The opportunities for DanceSyndrome that are coming up are all very exciting. They are all truly ready for bigger stages.
“They all want to show people who they are and what they can do – saying yes, we may have a disability, but we are dancers.”
Patron of DanceSyndrome and MEP for the North West Julie Ward also attended the premiere.
She said: “I have watched Jen’s journey and development of DanceSyndrome for four years and I am really proud to be a part of it.
“Everyone at DanceSyndrome is fantastic, they show that as humans we are differently abled – and it is an enrichment to society.”
To support DanceSyndrome on their journey to Edinburgh Fringe Festival go to www.dancesyndrome.co.uk/fundraising or text donate DANS10 £5 to 70070.