“Amazing!” “Awesome!” “Living my best life!”
The dancers from Cornwall’s IgniteYou are about to take to the stage on a Friday lunchtime and they can’t wait to get going.
But first they’re happy to try and put into words just how special their project is – and say thank you to everybody who buys a ticket for The Health Lottery.
Today’s group ranges from 17 to 49, with Ethan, Gracie, Daisy, Francesca, Chloe and Nick (who’s 49) proving that age is no barrier – and neither is ability.
The group welcomes dancers from all walks of life, including those with disabilities and various abilities such as Down’s Syndrome, learning difficulties or other types of disability, but puts no labels on them.
The driving force behind IgniteYou is Director Becci Gowers, who describes herself as “passionate about people feeling epic”.
Becci has a background in Hip Hop dance and you may have seen her on Britain’s Got Talent. She toured the world and now is back in the Cornwall area where she runs dance classes that welcome everyone, joined by her fellow Director Kerry Raymond.
“Everybody brings different strengths,” says Becci. “Even if someone doesn’t feel confident about being right at the front, they can help other people by demonstrating some moves. People who have less ability can interpret the movement in their own way.
"The most important thing for us is that it’s a safe space where everyone can express how they feel, and a place where they feel confident to take that step.
“We’re really, really passionate about making dance accessible and something that everyone can enjoy because there’s so much strength and wellbeing in it. Not only from an exercise point of view with the movement, but the community too.”
The smiles on the faces of today’s group suggest it’s working a treat.
Gracie, 17, says: “I love making new friends and performing,” and Francesca, who’s 21, agrees that the social aspect is important to the group. “Lockdown was really difficult for me because dancing on Zoom wasn’t the same,” she says. “We’ve all made friends since we started the group.”
“During lockdown, our members said they were very lonely, so it’s great being back. All ages and abilities come and join in, with dance classes improving both their physical and mental health. It’s truly accessible and most of all, it’s fun and a great way to make friends,” says Becci.
“There are lots of dance schools around here, but what makes us really unique is we focus on the individual. We might have a lesson plan, but if people want to do something different on the day, we make sure we adapt."
Everyone feels welcome and everyone is respected for the individual they are when they come to our classes and it’s up to us as teachers to make it accessible for them, not for the other way around.
“We’re quite lucky in Cornwall because there are other inclusive clubs, but not one centred around dance.
"Our challenge is that we have so many people who want to come, but there are only so many of us. We’re training up more people – Chloe, who’s here today, is training to be a dance assistant and teacher.”
And Chloe is a sparkling example of how the inclusive community improves people’s lives.
“Dancing makes me really happy,” she says. “Joining everyone here makes my day and I love being a volunteer because I can help other people enjoy themselves.”
Gathering for lessons four days a week gives the dancers something to look forward to. There’s no pressure to perform in public, but plenty of opportunities if they want to.
"A group of dancers took part in a flashmob to celebrate World Down’s Syndrome Day in March and they’re heading to Blackpool for the British Dance Championships."
“We’ve seen so many people flourish through dance and that’s why I feel so passionate about what we do,” says Becci.
Both she and Kerry are beyond grateful for funding raised through The Health Lottery that helps them to spread the joy of dance throughout the community.
“The funding enables us to run our inclusive dance timetable,” says Kerry.
“Thanks to players of The Health Lottery we can run classes on four days a week in our three locations, for disabled children, young people and adults - but if there are siblings or carers who want to join in, they’re welcome too.
“It’s been amazing to see these projects succeed. We’re in the second year of our funding now, so we’re really embedded in the community, just where we’re needed.
"A lot of people see Cornwall as an affluent place with holiday homes, but there are pockets of real deprivation and Redruth is one of the most deprived areas in the country.
“People probably don’t realise the impact they’re having when they buy a ticket for The Health Lottery and how it reaches the depths of the community. It’s fantastic. We can’t thank you enough.”
Empowers people to take ownership of their health through movement, nutrition and coaching
Established in 2017 by Becci Gowers
Offers dance lessons in Penzance, Redruth and Camborne, Cornwall
Grant of £39,967 with money raised through Health Lottery South West