Monday, August 08, 2022
Text size


Communication +

Concentration +

Co-operation +

Co-ordination     Confidence


The Dance School

The school has been in existence for only twelve years but its marked achievements are such that it is now in demand internationally. Its 1999 performance schedule already includes invitations from Russia, Hungary and Ecuador where the dance company demonstrated its accomplishments. The objective: to bring teachers from Europe to London for training in the special methods used to fulfil the school’s dual agenda:

  1. To uncover the artistic talents latent in people with special needs.


  2. To develop well-adjusted and confident individuals able to lead fulfilled lives.


The school's artistic director, Angelina Alessendre MBE, attributes much of her success to her mentor, Dr Ron Heavey, founder of the renowned St Helens’ Special Needs Dance Company which, over the years, won much international acclaim for its brilliance. Dr Heavey, now retired, unstintingly gave his time, his immense talent, his love and great heart to transforming the lives of Down’s Syndrome youngsters. He has chosen Angelina as his successor to further his pioneering work.

Using his imaginative syllabus as a solid base, she choreographs dance sequences to music likely to appeal and motivate. With firm but good-humoured discipline, patience and – above all – totally empathy, the pupils’ attention is held as they listen, remember and gradually connect one movement with another to gain ultimate mastery of the dance. Classes thus become profound learning experiences. Positive change – physical, intellectual and social – follows.

Dance can play a useful role in the education of any youngster. But those with Down’s Syndrome it can be the all-important route to complete transformation. For them it has especially significant meanings. They relate to it, automatically and enthusiastically.

Their movement skill improve; their intellectual development blossoms from the mental effort needed to master the steps; and by performing in unison with their peers they create a sense of togetherness. This cohesion makes them more aware of themselves and of one another. They begin to look, listen and respond.

With these heightened intellectual and social skills plus parallel physical improvement – better posture, balance and co-ordination – come; Communication, concentration, co-operation and co-ordination – all of them indispensable life skills which nurture that most vital of qualities – confidence.

Tonight’s dance Wind Beneath My Wings was specially dedicated to the genius and devotion of Dr Ron Heavey, and to the memory of David Blackwell who died recently. His daughter, Rebecca, has been a performer in the dance company since its inception. I think her considerable talent and determination were, from the start, inspirational to its development.