Undoubtedly the highlight of David Corr’s 2018 was taking the lead role in DanceSyndrome’s show at the Edinburgh festival.
David, who is 20 and lives in Chorley with his parents and older brother Chris, happens to have Down’s syndrome, but doesn’t see this a barrier to living an active and fulfilled life.
He has danced for audiences across the UK and last summer led the cast of Lit aDrift, Dance Syndrome’s Edinburgh Fringe performance piece. It is highly unusual for learning-disabled dancers to perform on stage without a supporting dance artist, but David’s performance was both technically excellent and hugely emotive.
His timing and presentation were of a very high standard, demonstrating a level of professionalism beyond that of his peer group. He also took a starring role in DanceSyndrome’s fifth birthday celebrations at the end of 2018, performing alongside his friends, and girlfriend, at a Hollywood-themed party that acted as a fitting finale to his incredible year in the spotlight.
David comes from a sporty family, and started skiing at the age of five before joining the Rossendale Special Olympics Ski club at the age of 13. He went on to win a gold medal representing Great Britain at the World Special Olympics in 2017, and is now a member of the Pendle Race Squad, competing in both local and national races.
He also loves playing football – most of all as goalkeeper – as well as family bike rides and regular gym sessions, building up his strength for the many sports he enjoys. However, out of all his activities, dancing comes first for David.
He joined DanceSyndrome in 2016 after his mum heard about its dance leader training course through Cardinal Newman College in Preston. David soon became a regular participant, joining a performance troupe and attending weekly sessions.
Importantly he qualified as a Dance Leader, enabling him to co-design and co-lead workshops and community taster sessions, inspiring and supporting others to dance. 2018 has been a significant year for David's work with DanceSyndrome.
He has worked hard with their Dance Artists, refining his dance technique and improving his technical skills significantly. His experience as a skier meant David already knew how to dedicate himself, how to stay fit and active, and how to succeed. But with DanceSyndrome he has learned how to be confident, to build new friendships and to have new experiences. His wellbeing has increased and he now sees exciting options ahead, including pursuing a career in dancing.
David himself recognises how much his skill has grown: “In dance, I am a street dancer, but when I came to DanceSyndrome it’s much, much harder, because it’s got different styles of dance,” he says. “People do contemporary and ballet and I couldn’t do that because it’s my different thing. But now, I’m perfect!"
A film about the rehearsal process for the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe, and David's role within it, has been created by journalist Liam Armson. He considers barriers to inclusion, challenging perceptions and inspiring others in this documentary.
David is incredibly proud of the work he does with DanceSyndrome, and is a vocal champion of his fellow dancers. He attends focus group sessions where Dance Leaders come together to talk about their future with DanceSyndrome, and to suggest and explore changes they would like to see.
Feedback from these sessions are passed on to DanceSyndrome’s Board of Trustees and changes implemented wherever possible. David’s suggestion that more could be done to celebrate achievement and effort led directly to the introduction of certificates and medals for those who were excelling.
During his time with the company, he has become a talented, dedicated and inspirational dancer, and a role-model to others. This was reflected in the audience feedback from the preview performance of the Edinburgh show, which took place in Preston in July 2018. Out of all the comments that were fed back, only four mentioned disability, inclusion or integration – the performance was seen by the majority as a positive piece of professional dance, performed by able, talented dancers.
And there’s a great deal more to come from David, and the rest of the DanceSyndrome team, in the year ahead.
To learn about our programme Everybody Dance, run by DanceSyndrome, click here.