By flamingochicks, Nov 25 2015 05:27PM
A flock of young dancers from the inclusive Flamingo Chicks dance school pirouetted their way into 10 Downing Street this week, trailing glitter, feathers and ribbons in their wake, to show Samantha Cameron and guests that ballet has no barriers.
Mrs Cameron hosted the budding ballerinas at a very special reception on Tuesday, 24th November, where they performed a unique ‘mash-up’ of several well-known ballets. The group of 25 children representing Flamingo Chicks classes in Bristol, London, Bradford, Leeds and Cardiff put on their sparkliest tutus and biggest smiles for the unique #balletnotbarriers performance, which also celebrated the 2nd birthday of Flamingo Chicks.
The troupe included children who are blind, autistic, have conditions such as Down’s Syndrome and cerebral palsy or are undergoing cancer treatment, yet none of them let the difficulties they face get in the way of their fun – they focus on what they can do, enjoying every second of being able to move and laugh with friends.
They performed extracts from Le Corsaire, Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, The Firebird, Sleeping Beauty and La Bayadere in front of guests including families and volunteers, as well as the dance school’s patrons Tamara Rojo, Prima Ballerina and Artistic Director at English National Ballet, and Rosaleen Moriarty Simmonds OBE, a leading campaigner for equality for disabled people.
Some of the Flamingo Chicks dancers even gave a speech to guests, talking about why everyone should be encouraged to enjoy movement.
Samantha Cameron said: “It was such a treat to have the Flamingo Chicks performing here in Downing Street. Flamingo Chicks is so much more than a dance school where children go to have fun with their friends – it is also getting across a powerful message about inclusivity”.
Katherine Sparkes, Founder of Flamingo Chicks, said: “It was such an amazing and special experience and we thank Mrs Cameron and Downing Street for giving Flamingo Chicks this unique opportunity. To see the children dancing, with big smiles on their faces, and even being brave enough to speak in front of all those people, was incredible. It was a magical day and created memories that we’ll all treasure forever.”
Flamingo Chicks offers inclusive movement-based sessions giviing youngsters the chance to explore dance alongside their friends, no matter what their level of ability or if they have any kind of impairment. Sessions double up as a support group for parents and carers – a chance for respite with free massages, someone to talk to and a space to forge friendships with other families going through the same thing.
In just two short years, Flamingo Chicks has become a powerful community of people working together to provide a better life for disabled children and their families. The dance school not only transforms the lives of children and their parents who walk through its doors, but also showcases to others what’s possible when people believe in what disabled children can do. Flamingo Chicks has become a lifeline for children and their families while challenging perceptions about disability.
“Having the opportunity to explore dance and movement together is so important for our children and it’s a delight to see the physical, emotional, mental and social benefits shine through – they really have blossomed and gained in confidence,” Katherine added.
“Dance can have a powerful effect on people’s lives – it’s not only about improving health but quality of life too. We have developed into the most co-supportive and warm community for everyone who comes along.”
Demand for this sort of holistic support for disabled children and their families is great. There are around 770,000 disabled children in the UK, and research from Contact a Family shows that three quarters of families with disabled children feel so isolated that it has caused anxiety, depression and breakdown. 38% parents of disabled children said their child ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ had the opportunity to socialise and mix with children who aren’t disabled . 80% of disabled people are currently not active but seven in ten want to increase the amount of physical activity they take part in.
Discussing how Flamingo Chicks has benefited her family, Julie Smee, mum to Issy, aged eight, said: “[It’s] so much more than a dance class, Flamingo Chicks is a lifeline for families. It’s a welcoming, safe space for children with additional needs to have fun, make new friends and explore what their bodies can do – whilst enabling parents to come together, swap tips and share ways to cope, helping us though the journey of parenting a child with disabilities. It’s the most incredible place – full of love and warmth, it has literally changed our lives for the better.”
Flamingo Chicks has already achieved so much, but the journey has only just begun and there are exciting plans for the road ahead. In 2016 it’ll be working in countries such as Ghana – a country dubbed ‘the worst place in the world to be disabled’ (http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/sophie-morgan/worlds-worst-place-to-be-disabled_b_8003144.html) and where those with disabilities experience particularly tough lives.
Flamingo Chicks also received recognition from the Prime Minister in August of this year when the organisation was presented with a Point Of Light Award. David Cameron said: “Flamingo Chicks knows that helping children to enjoy dance is about far more than physical benefits; it helps to build confidence, vital social and communication skills and self-esteem. Flamingo Chicks has inspired a team of volunteers to make sure that children are able to dance alongside their friends regardless of their disabilities."
For more information, please contact: Katie Sparkes, Katie at flamingochicks dot co dot uk 0117 973 9019.
About Flamingo Chicks
Notes to Editors:
www.flamingochicks.co.uk – @flamingochicks on Twitter – www.facebook.com/flamingochicks
Dance classes are open to those aged 3 to 19 and are aimed at helping them develop confidence, social skills, co-ordination, communication and concentration.
The organisation is passionate about encouraging intergenerational volunteering with volunteers aged 16-84.