September Club of the Month!
Ever since being ‘blown away’ by the first time she saw para-dance in action, Louise Bowman has been determined to help disabled people express themselves through the power of dance.
The founding of Impetus Dance in 2016 enabled her to do just that and the club has continued to go from strength to strength in the years since, having established a close-knit community which has been held together remotely through the pandemic.
Now back on the dancefloor, Louise is hoping the Bridgend-based club can continue to broaden their reach and encourage disabled people across south Wales to lose themselves to dance.
“I started learning to dance when I was about five years old and I’ve always loved it,” Louise said.
“One year I went and took part in a competition in the South West and came across some para-dancers.
“I absolutely loved watching them, I was blown away by what they did and I really wanted to get involved.
“At that time, there was nobody in Wales doing anything like this so I did my instructor training and set something up locally.
“We started with a little group of three or four people and it has grown from there.
“Now we run regular dance classes for adults and children, we have moved into Rhondda Cynon Taff, we are hopefully moving into Cardiff and Newport later this year and we project manage big dance projects such as Leonard Cheshires Strictly Cymru Project.
The club strike a balance between fun and competitive dancing, with Louise earmarking the 2019 UK Open Para-Dance Championships as a highlight of her involvement to date.
Impetus Dance became the first ever Welsh club to enter the competition and came away with two gold and two bronze medals, while remote competitions have continued through lockdown to give the club’s members, young and old, something to aim for.
“I’ve met so many amazing people through para-dance,” said Louise. “Some people you meet are very shy and reserved but after learning to express themselves and feeling free in their movement, they become confident.
“It has been great to be a part of someone’s journey in finding a sport that suits them.” “Para-dance is not just about the sport and physical exercise, it’s also being able to find yourself as an individual.”
Bowman has been nominated for a One Dance UK community award for her efforts, with the club’s members full of praise for how she has adapted her sessions to make them welcoming and inclusive for all.
Kay Ann Phillips, who has rheumatoid arthritis, and her autistic 26-year-old son, Tariq, both take part in Impetus Dance sessions and Kay
Ann said: “Tariq had tried dancing before but needs a lot of time demonstrating and somebody who is very encouraging to make him feel part of a group.
“We found that Louise was very understanding, patient, caring and considerate towards all his needs.
“I quickly felt I wanted to get involved and dance, so Louise provided us with specialist chairs and we’ve thoroughly enjoyed it.”
Sonia Sanghani, a double-leg amputee, is also among those to have benefited from Impetus Dance’s community spirit.
“They are just a fantastic bunch of people to work and dance with,” said Sonia, a writer who contributed poetry sessions to the club’s varied lockdown programme which also included quizzes and cookery.
“We’re in stitches every session that we have. We are doing things seriously but we are having a really good time when we do it as well.”
Impetus Dance’s admirable work has seen them named Parasport’s Club of the Month for September, which Louise hopes will help act as a springboard for a post-lockdown boom in participants.
“We are absolutely honoured by this recognition,” she said.
“We are such a small organisation, so to be given this opportunity to show what we do here in Wales and also encourage more people to find a local dance group is fantastic.
“Don’t be afraid to give it a go - the beauty of dance is you can get up and feel free.”