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I have cerebral palsy and I dance: Come see me perform at a star-studded gala this week
Denecia Allen is performing at the Empower In Motion dance gala this Wednesday at Sadler's Wells alongside international ballet stars, principals from the UK's leading companies, and professional disabled and wheelchair dancers from Propel Dance, Stopgap Dance and Parable Dance.
Anyone else might be overawed but she says: "We may be a bit different on the outside but inside we are all the same. I want to create a spark for the community of what is possible."
Denny is bubbling with excitement, "scared and happy, counting the days" until her upcoming duet with English National Dancer Alice Bellini. Irrepressible and infectiously giggly, I reckon she also has a future as an inspirational speaker.
The 18-year-old tells me: "People should come and see what dance is truly about and not think about the negative of things but just the happiness and joy. Don't let anyone push you down, whether you have like a disability or not. Know you can do it and you can always get back up. Be yourself. Trust the people who love you.”
Empower In Motion at Sadler's Wells will showcase classical and contemporary performances by both disabled and non-disabled artists, in support of charity Children Today's mission to provide equipment, support, and care to families in need across the UK.
State funding faces potential shortfalls of £4.5 billion for children with special educational needs and disabilities, and worried charities nationwide are feeling the bite of the cost of living crisis as people have less to give.
Denny herself has always required specialised mobility equipment. For ten years, she been supported by local London charity icandance, which helps over 300 people each week.
“They are like family to me,” she says. “They watched me grow up into who I am now, crazy and loud!”
Like any teen, she loves singing and dancing with her friends, “blasting my music until I annoy my parents,” but dancing takes her somewhere very special.
"It feels magical and peaceful, like dancing on a cloud,” Denny says. “I feel like I am in another universe, transforming. I can be myself, be happy.”
“As professionals, we forget dance should feel like this,” Alice says. "There’s a lot of passion but also pressure and work. Dancing with Denny restores my own love and joy in ballet.”
The Italian dancer volunteers around a gruelling rehearsing, touring and performing schedule but says: “I get so much energy and inspiration. At the end of a long week, sometimes I’m tired, but every time I leave the room, I’m fresh. I love just giving them everything, their families say it is the best time of the week for everyone. They relax and become free."
Dancing is clearly fun for Denny, and it's essential for improving more than strength and coordination. “I train my memory with the steps," she says. "That's very, very cool.”
Icandance founder Juliet Diener proudly says: “They've created something new, exciting and moving. Every child deserves to be seen for who they are and what they can offer.”
Specialist Information Officer and Cerebral Palsy Programme Lead
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