Liberate Dancer Jack - Spotlight Story
Yesterday, Monday 23 September 2023 was National Boys Dance Day, and this week we’re highlighting the stories of some of our amazing ‘boy’ dancers from our classes, and which range from our Academies for 10-16 year-olds to our over 65s’ GEMS, and to our Liberate wheelchair dancers.
Our first story is Jack Hayes’s.
Jack is 18 years old, and has just started his first year at the University of Portsmouth, studying Post Production.
Jack is a Liberate Dance student, and Liberate Dance is our exclusively wheelchair-based dance company, created to celebrate the freedom of movement a wheelchair brings to people with disabilities.
Jack has Cerebral Palsy. He says, “This does make life challenging but I am always looking for ways to adapt towards my environment. In everyday life and as a performer I have found ways to adapt for my own movement when sometimes people have not thought and considered this as an issue for me.”
We asked Jack various questions about dancing and dancing with Liberate Dance and Move Momentum, and we’re sharing Jack’s replies below.
How long have you been dancing at Liberate?
Since October 2019.
Why do you like dancing and what made you start at Liberate Dance?
I like dancing as it allows me to express myself through music and movement, and I really love being able to connect with a song in terms of the emotion and the performance as a whole.
I joined Liberate Dance as I was part of the dance company at Kings’ School [in Winchester] and was looking for a dance company outside of school but I couldn’t find one that either was accommodating for me or that I enjoyed as much as Liberate. At the time, I was auditioning for a dance display at school and I bumped into Amanda [Move Momentum CEO and teacher] who told me about the class and invited me for a taster session. I went that weekend and loved it. I have never looked back since!
Why do you like dancing with Liberate Dance?
I like dancing with Liberate because of the sense of collaboration and community. Everyone at Liberate supports one another and the classes are great because of this reason.
The classes are laid back and not too serious which is how life should be seen. Not everything has to be serious and the fact that we are performers in a wheelchair is a reason why this means so much to me as an individual, and for the wider society to recognise that someone like me is indeed a dancer.
What is your favourite part of the class?
My favourite part of the class is always being greeted by friendly faces as soon as you arrive.
In the class I love doing exercise that gets our bodies warmed up as it helps me to feel active but also makes me feel better about myself and the skin that I’m in. I also love working on our new dances as we always add to them every week and it helps us in terms of collaborating with a teacher such as Amanda and I always love seeing what we come up with, especially when we get to the end, and then get opportunities to perform it at the annual dance showcase, or other performance opportunities (such as The Hat Fair or Enham Place).
Have you made new friends through Liberate? If so, what do these friendships mean to you?
I have made lots of friends through Liberate, both from my Young Adults class and the Adults class.
What is amazing is how much we learn about each other and each one of us has a different story to tell which I think is incredible for a group of wheelchair dancers. It means that we don’t stop talking - but allows for us to build upon the connection we have with each other, and also lean on each other for support, and gives us someone to talk to about anything in general!
What are the benefits of coming to the classes?
For me, it's a chance to get moving and keep myself active while also socialising with like minded individuals who are all there because we all enjoy the passion and hobby of dancing.
I have also noticed since joining Liberate that I am more determined and passionate in both dancing and my everyday life and because I have joined Liberate Dance my confidence has grown and has helped me become a better person because I know I can achieve anything I put my mind to.
It has also led to agreeing to do more things and so I really have had lots of opportunities since the class, both from the class itself and life in general.
Is there any particular type of music or piece of music that you like?
I like a good mix of current music or an old classic that everyone knows - always a feel good. I love to also dance contemporary pieces but also more commercial and musical theatre styles of dance.
Do you have any particular role models for dancing or do you watch Strictly Come Dancing or any other dancing programmes?
One of my main role models for dance is Rose Ayling-Ellis [actress and winner of Strictly Come Dancing in 2021, and hearing impaired] and to watch her dance to Symphony was breathtaking and was so powerful to show what her daily struggles are from being deaf but also being able to communicate this to the audience in a unique and raw way, that made everyone emotional watching. I loved seeing her journey as her confidence grew and she took bigger leaps and huge risks and was so excited when she won because of what it meant in terms of representation for the disabled community.
Strictly has not only been influential for including and showcasing celebrities who are disabled such as Ellie Simmonds [former Paralympian swimmer] and Rose Ayling-Ellis but also in showing how male celebrities can be really good dancers (Joe Sugg, Kelvin Fletcher and Karim Zarowell are good examples of this), and also for same-sex couples (such as John and Johannes and Nikita and Layton this year) and that highlights the power that dance can bring and also the impact it can have and hold on an audience. I also think that Musa Motha (who appeared on Britain’s Got Talent) is a massive inspiration for me because of the way he moved and completely took over the audience both in the studio and at home when we all watched his audition piece that was absolutely sensational!
What are your plans for the future?
I am currently studying Post Production at the University of Portsmouth, and aspire to become a disabled editor and content creator for videos and TV programmes. I am also interested in social media and campaign marketing. In terms of my performing, that will always stay as a hobby for me - and I have no plans to stop doing that anytime soon!
Will Liberate help you towards achieving your goals?
Liberate has helped me gain the confidence to be a performer, and the group has always supported me in my dreams and aspirations, and so will help me to keep pursuing my love of performing as a huge passion of mine for the foreseeable future.
Thank you, for sharing your story with us, Jack! We love dancing with you at Liberate Dance, and thank you, too, for all that you bring to the Liberate Dance classes.
Youth (ages 7-13): 12.30-1.30pm
Young Adult (ages 14-21): 2-3pm
Adult (ages 21+): 3.30-4.30pm
And we have an online class, held via Zoom, on Wednesdays, 7-8pm.