Fashion

Step Change Studios to Represent UK at Ground-breaking Inclusive Dance Festival in US

Step Change Studio & KPD dancers in London. Photo by Stephanie Claire

Award-winning inclusive dance company Step Change Studios, has been invited to represent the UK at a ground-breaking festival for physically integrated dance, in the United States. FORWARD MOTION, produced by Florida-based Karen Peterson and Dancers, is one of the first festivals and conferences anywhere in the world, showcasing pioneering, innovate physically integrated dance. This bold festival – inclusive of those with and without disabilities, on stage, and in the audience – challenges artistic and societal perceptions of what defines physical beauty, and artistic ability.

Forward Motion will take place in the Unites States from 25-28th September, and feature some of the best dance companies of any kind, in performance, in discussion and expert workshops. With leading support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation,the National Endowment of the Arts, and Miami Dade County, KPD has put together a powerful line-up that will appeal to American audiences, as well as help define what physically integrated dance is in 2019.
Inclusive dance company, Step Change Studios, is the only UK organization invited by KPD to participate in Forward Motion. Along with US funding, Arts Council England has supported a US-UK exchange which saw dancers from the US perform a newly created piece with dancers from Step Change Studios at the National Theatre Summer Stage in London, earlier this month.

Karen Peterson, Artistic Director of Forward Motion said: “It is a pleasure for Karen Peterson and Dancers to invite Step Change Studios to the Miami festival to teach and perform. This will be the first time KPD dancers have facilitated an international cultural exchange with a ballroom dance company and the first time inclusive ballroom dance has been presented and taught in Miami. We are especially excited to view the UK-US collaborative performance developed in London at Forward Motion.”

‘Fairy Tales’. Photo by Stephen Wright

Step Change Studios Founder, Rashmi Becker said: “I established Step Change Studios just two years ago to address the lack of dance opportunities for disabled people. In a short space of time, we have supported over 2,000 people to dance. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to represent UK dance at this pioneering festival in the U.S. As well as performing our newly created dance piece with KPD dancers, we will be performing highlights from our recent hit show ‘Fairy Tales’ which premiered in London earlier this year. I will also be moderating a panel discussion on art and advocacy. I hope our work will challenge perceptions of who can dance and encourage more diversity in the arts both in the UK and internationally.”

Notes and contacts:

1. Forward Motion will take place Miami from 25-28th September.
For details and tickets visit: www.karenpetersondancers.org/forwardmotion

2. For interview or photography requests, please contact: Step Change Studios: Rashmi Becker at contact@stepchangestudios.com.

Tips on Creating a Business Born Out of My Needs as a Wheelchair User

By Louise Sertsis

I pride myself in saying that I am an official business owner and the founder of a line of bags designed for wheelchair users, That being said, I had no idea what I was getting myself into nor the amount of work it would be but I do love what I’m doing. I strongly believe that women should support and empower one another so I’d like to share some tips that I’ve learned during this process that may be helpful for those wanting to start their own business:

Find a Need
I never thought of how much work was involved when thinking/developing an idea, to finally launching my product to market. A bag created out of my need for independence and freedom. I can recall my relentless searches on the Internet, looking for a wheelchair bag that was similar to the vision in my head. This bag didn’t exist online or in stores, my excitement grew as I pondered this.

Find Your Passion
Finding a need is one thing but you need to be passionate about what you are doing because starting a business is hard work and all consuming.
Although my situation prevented me from doing physical work, my thoughts were ongoing and strong. I now had a goal to work towards, something I could truly call my own. This gave me purpose, passion and determination. I was going to find a way to make this happen regardless of my mobility needs. I was never one to fear the unknown, or shy away from completing a project. The past two years have shown that my perseverance and hard work is starting to show.

Seek Individuals with Experience in the Industry

In creating a product or service, you obviously need to learn as much as possible about the industry. This requires hours and hours of research but you are way ahead of the learning curve, if you find someone with knowledge and expertise that can only come from years of working in the field.
So my next step was to find someone who could turn my vision which is now known as the Handi-Pac, into reality. Through a complete fluke, I was able to find Bill Ostrom of Ostrom Packs, who would grow to be my mentor and friend. He constructed my prototypes that mirrored my vision as to what I needed to the Handi Pac to be. Due to his extensive experience and unparalleled attention to detail, I was able to explain my concept, which became my first working prototype.

Become a Sponge
Bill and I spoke on the phone and I drank in any wisdom that he was willing to share. After countless hours on the telephone, we have created something that is truly unique and needed for wheelchair users. Without Bill’s support/guidance, I couldn’t imagine where I’d be today. I can’t stress enough Bill’s belief in me which was an integral piece of this puzzle. All you really need is a great person, such as Bill, to turn dreams into reality but you also need to listen.

Adapt and Evolve
Sometimes you are going to hear information that is not necessarily in line with your vision and you will need to adapt your plan. This is not always easy to do but is paramount to be successful.
Bill suggested ideas which I was able to follow to establish branding for my product, and without his business savvy, I would still be learning the ins and outs on how to create a successful business strategy. I’m not sure how I found him but I’m so glad I did!

Create a Business Plan
Exploring the feasibility by creating a business plan with a thorough financial budget, is imperative.
There is a wealth of knowledge online that even includes templates for you to follow during this phase. Once again, find a mentor to review and get feedback or connect with a program such as SCORE which will link you with a volunteer entrepreneur to help guide you through the process.

Partner with a Like Minded Go-Getter

The prototyping phase has been a lengthy process, one that allowed me the opportunity to form invaluable relationships. Samanta Bullock is one of those relationships. She has not only provided her honest and constructive feedback, but she has done it while traveling in her wheelchair for her modeling career. She is from London, England where wheelchair modelling is much more advanced than it is here. Samanta is now my friend, collaborator and like-minded individual. I’m honored to partner with Samanta Bullock, a woman who is impacting others in wheelchairs and has the same drive as I do.

Don’t Give Up
My biggest hurdle to date has always been the lack of funding hence why I decided to create a kickstarter starter campaign. If successful, I will be able to order my first allotment of bags. I will be able to be a contributing member of society, which is beyond important for me. I wasted so many precious years, feeling sorry for myself and my situation. Today’s a new day and I’m trying to make other wheelchair users lives better by giving the gift of independence. See my latest news coverage on CTV here! My kickstarter will offer the Handi Pac at a promotional price vs my website. See Kickstarter here. Please be sure to visit my website at advancedfreedom.com if you require any further information.

Like my Facebook page advanced freedom
Follow me on Instagram @advancedfreedom
Follow on twitter @lhunlouise or
LinkedIn at Louise Sertsis


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