A proud mother has spoken of the pride she has for her daughter who is a finalist in the Inspirational Woman of the Year in this year’s Enterprise Vision Awards.
“Dance has transformed her and given her a voice to be heard,” said Sue Blackwell, of Clitheroe, who is bursting with pride at her daughter’s achievements and how dance has allowed her personality to blossom.
Dancing has allowed Jen’s personality to really come to the fore. Jen is no longer primarily a person with learning disabilities; she is a dancer who is passionate about getting other people interested in danceSue Blackwell
Sue’s daughter Jen Blackwell (33) who lives in Chorley, is proof that disability is no barrier to achieving dreams.
Jen, who lives in her own accommodation but has carers visit daily, is a finalist in two categories in this year’s Enterprise Vision Awards – as Inspirational Woman of The Year and the Health and Fitness category.
Jen was nominated by colleagues at inclusive dance charity DanceSyndrome which Jen founded along with support from her mum Sue in 2009.
DanceSyndrome provides opportunities for people with learning disabilities to lead their own dance workshops.
Jen founded DanceSyndrome because she could not find any opportunities to work in community dance.
Now, many people like Jen are training to become dance leaders and dancing with professional dance artists to produce beautiful performance pieces which they perform across the country.
Mum Sue, who is married to Malcolm and also has son Anthony (33) says she and Malcolm had no idea Jen had Down’s Syndrome before the birth and were informed by doctors when Jen was about five hours old.
Sue said: “We were coping with the unknown which made it very difficult. We knew nothing about Down’s Syndrome so researched it to find out everything we could.”
The couple did a series of daily exercises, called patterning, with Jen from when she was nine months old to the age of four.
“Jen’s interest in dancing probably stemmed from this as it gave her physical stimulation and encouraged her to do activities which other children do naturally such as skipping, jumping and running.”
As as child, Jen took part in activities including Brownies, swimming, gymnastics and dancing.
She began dancing in pre-school and then joined a dance class, where she studied dance including Latin, ballroom and jazz.
After leaving school at the age of 18, Jen wanted to work in community dance but couldn’t find appropriate training opportunities.
This ultimately led to the creation of Dance Syndrome.
DanceSyndrome is an inclusive dance company informed, inspired and led by dancers with learning disabilities who lead workshops, choreograph and deliver performances. They are supported by professionally trained dance artists with co-production.
Sue says: “Dancing has allowed Jen’s personality to really come to the fore. Jen is no longer primarily a person with learning disabilities; she is a dancer who is passionate about getting other people interested in dance.
“The EVAs are open to all women in business with no consideration given to ability or disability, so for Jen to win would be a shot in the arm for everyone with a learning disability. Together, we can make people all around sit up and take notice.”
Jen says: “Dancing is my life. I am passionate about dance and about supporting people like me to have opportunities in the dance world.
“DanceSyndrome includes everyone and I am very happy to be making real friends for the first time in my life.
“I’m so excited to be an EVA finalist and I want to win!”
Dawn Vickers, managing director of DanceSyndrome, says: “Jen is a huge inspiration to everyone involved with DanceSyndrome.”
The awards ceremony will take place at The Winter Gardens in Blackpool tomorrow. For further details about DanceSyndrome visit: www.dancesyndrome.co.uk