Disability dance group marks 10th anniversary

Linda Fearon and Andy Paton from Luminous Soul will celebrate a decade of dance with a free performance at Cornmarket
Linda Fearon and Andy Paton from Luminous Soul will celebrate a decade of dance with a free performance at Cornmarket
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Open Arts, one of Northern Ireland’s most dynamic arts and disability organisations will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of its dance group Luminous Soul by hosting the inclusive dance festival MeetShareDance in Belfast, September 5 - 7.

Luminous Soul is the only contemporary dance development programme for disabled people in Northern Ireland and features members who have a range of disabilities: physical, sensory, learning disabilities and mental illness.

Now in its eighth year, MeetShareDance is an international workshop dance festival which is based around the ideas of inclusivity and exchange. It aims to raise the profile of integrated dance in artistic and everyday life. The festival has previously taken place in Porto, Madrid, Helsinki, Berlin, Lubjana and Dublin - this will be its first visit to Northern Ireland.

One of the many performers taking part this year is Katy Megahey, 36, from Belfast, a member of Luminous Soul disability dance group, who began to lose her sight in her teens and has had only 10 per cent vision since her 20s. She was diagnosed with a rare disorder, Bardet-Biedl Syndrome, which affects around one in 160,000 children.

She says: “It was very hard to lose my sight and have to relearn how to do everything from being mobile to doing things round the house. I also had to learn to read Braille.

“While it was emotionally difficult, you learn to cope and just get on with it. I keep busy, playing blind tennis at Windsor Tennis Club, taking part in the Open Arts choir, the Luminous Soul dance group and attending art classes.

“Joining Open Arts was an opportunity to meet new people and do things that I loved to do before, but had stopped doing because I had lost my sight.

“I had just stopped everything and it was great to be singing again, dancing and doing art.”

Eileen Branagh, chief executive of Open Arts said: “MeetShareDance embodies the ethos of what Luminous Soul as a disability dance group has been doing for the past 10 years. We bring people of all abilities together to learn to dance, make new connections and share their talents with each other and the public.

“Over a decade of dance, Luminous Soul members have worked with and been trained by some of the most well known inclusive choreographers in the UK and Ireland and some have even gone on to have their own successful careers in professional dance. We’re really looking forward to celebrating the group’s achievements with dancers from all over Europe at MeetShareDance in Belfast in September.”

During the festival, 40 amateur and professional dancers from eight countries - Spain, Portugal, Germany, Ireland, Greece, Luxembourg, UK, and Slovenia - will take part in three days of inclusive dance workshops at the Crescent Arts Centre.

Participants in MeetShareDance will then showcase their skills to the public with a performance of a newly devised collaborative piece in Cornmarket on Saturday, September 7 at 1pm.

Gilly Campbell, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said: “The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is committed to providing opportunities for everyone to access and engage with the arts. Congratulations to Open Arts on celebrating 10 years of providing high-quality dance development opportunities, for people with disabilities, through the Luminous Soul programme and we look forward to the MeetShareDance Festival coming to Belfast to mark the occasion this September.”

Open Arts is principally funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and receives Core Multi-Annual Funding from Belfast City Council’s Tourism Culture & Arts Unit.

For further information on Luminous Soul and MeetShareDance 2019, visit www.openartsni.org.