Earlier this year, my talented and inspiring best friend, Amanda Jones, started a offering body-positive LGBTQ-friendly adult beginners dance classes. As a qualified dance teacher, when friends told her that they would love to learn ballet but couldn’t find any classes to suit them, Amanda decided to create one. I took part in her first 8-week beginners ballet class, and was amazed at how much I could achieve in a supportive environment. Without cliques or body snark, the group evolved to help and support each other all the way through to our open class in July. By this point, word had spread and Twitter was buzzing with excitement. Not only was there demand for inclusive sociable ballet classes, but people wanted tap and hip hop next too. So, Amanda ran a second set of classes – grades 1 & 2 ballet, tap and hip hop – and then took a group of these students to show off their new skills at a dance festival!
A few things were becoming clear at this stage. Irreverent Dance wasn’t just about learning sautés in third or how to grind to Do It Like A Dude, it was also building a safe space for LGBTQ folk to socialize, get fit, and have their identity and body accepted in a way that just isn’t possible in most fitness classes. Amanda is looking to expand the project in 2013 to offer more classes, reach out to vulnerable LGBTQ adults, and offer existing dance practitioners a toolkit for promoting inclusivity in their schools. Irreverent Dance is now a registered non-profit organisation (yay!) and is raising funds for this expansion via BuzzBnk.
Adults between 18 and 40 years identifying as a sexual or gender minority are more than three times as likely to suffer depression and isolation and more than four times as likely to attempt suicide than their peers. Transgender individuals are a particular risk group: 58% of all young trans people attempt or consider suicide at some point. Despite their increased risk, LGBTQ individuals who are suffering from depression and isolation may face additional problems when seeking treatment and appropriate services due to homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.
However, it has been shown that a supportive environment and access to other LGBTQ individuals can significantly reduce the feelings of isolation and drastically lower the risk of self-harm and suicide. […] Dance is one of the most powerful and accessible forms of social exercise and when done in a supportive and accepting environment correlates with numerous positive effects on both physical and psychological well-being. With your support we estimate we could reach 150-200 individuals offering them the same benefits as our pilot.
So, what can you do to help? Well, first of all, you could spread the word. Follow @IrreverentDance on Twitter and tweet about it to your followers. Like the Facebook page and share it with your friends. Write a blog post, share the link to the performance video… tell anyone and everyone who you think might be interested. Secondly, perhaps you could spare some time and/or money? Get involved with Irreverent Dance by signing up or coming to an open class. Donate whatever you can to help this wonderful project move forwards. Every little helps, and you really will be making a difference as every penny will be spent wisely. As many cheesy dance movies have taught me, dance really can make a difference. Trust me on this one.