Empowered Dancers rise above lockdown

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Dancers from Chester and Ellesmere Port have been creative during the UK’s first lockdown to continue work on a project to empower women. This culminated in a performance together on the eve of the second national lockdown.

Cheshire charities Fallen Angels Dance Theatre (FADT) and Chester Sexual Abuse Support Service (CSASS) joined forces for the first time earlier this year with the aim of supporting women to build confidence and friendships. All of the women taking part have experienced sexual violence, mental health challenges or are in recovery from addiction.

The final performance of the ‘Empowering Women through Dance’ project was due to be shared at Storyhouse Women Weekend in April but the national lockdown and the temporary closure of Storyhouse prevented this.

Dance rehearsals via Zoom

In response to lockdown, the 12 women continued to dance via Zoom in workshops led by FADT executive director Claire Morris and CSASS Outreach Manager Kathryn Kirk. As soon as lockdown restrictions were eased in the summer, small groups met in a socially-distanced way at Grosvenor Park in Chester.

In September, six of the dancers met for the first time under Covid-safe working practices at Storyhouse’s Garret Theatre and they finally performed together at a two-metre distance on Wednesday, November 4 – the eve of the UK’s second lockdown.

Claire Morris said: “Many of the dancers in our group find life even more challenging than normal during lockdown so it was very important that we kept the project going.

“Learning to dance together via Zoom was very rewarding and it was a joy to be able to meet at last in person. Feedback from the dancers has been very positive, describing the project as ‘an emotional release’, ‘a safe place to feel free’ and an endorsement that ‘we are enough as we are’.”

Socially distanced at Storyhouse

Kathryn Kirk added: “Being able to meet people in a safe environment online and share daily challenges through dance and creative movement has been such a powerful force for good.”

The work the dancers have produced has been recorded and they hope to be able to share it more widely next year.

Chair of FADT Sue Davies said: “Whenever we work with women in recovery or in challenging situations, the issue of confidence and self-belief comes up over and over again.

“Lockdown and restrictions are challenging enough anyway but for people with any form of anxiety it is even more difficult. This project is proof that dance, movement and creativity – even at a distance – can enhance people’s lives immeasurably.”

The Empowering Women Through Dance project was made possible through funding from Cheshire Community Foundation and the Tampon Tax Fund.

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