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Dance on Wheels

I always wanted to be a ballerina growing up, a passion I passed onto my daughter quickly. When you imagine the lights and stage set bright and colorful, the costumes and music elegant and magical. It’s every girls dream. When I met Heidi Sharples Silva I knew she was a teacher who could in capture moments like that for my daughter. But I never imagined what she had in store when she put Peter Pan together.

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Heidi found out about my son Marley pretty quickly as he made himself known on a Saturday morning whilst dropping off his sister. I am currently a full time carer for him whilst he receives ongoing treatment in Lisbon and the Algarve to be ready for an operation on his brain. Among many health complications we have been busy fundraising for urgent medical procedures and trying to raise awareness for children, like Marley, with disability or debilitating health problems. I so badly want children like Marley to experience things like other children do. And Heidi made that happen.

Generally with ballet, the choreography is challenging but graceful, expressive, and meaningful. Every movement conveys a message and tells a story to the audience through the performers' bodies. How do you envision the dancers? Likely you're picturing them to be tall, slender, and attractive, able to move as lightly as a bird on delicate toes that must have superhuman strength. Right? Well I can now tell you, you can even do it on wheels! And Marley definitely has super powers on the dance floor.

Heidi runs DancExpression, after working for over 10 years as a professional dancer, offering ballet and modern dance for children of all ages in various locations in Portimao and Alvor. Heidi enables her students to enter ballet exams and focuses her classes to maximize the benefits of physical fitness and development, co-ordination, correct posture, self-confidence, creativity, musicality, communication (with an audience, with their teacher and fellow students), spatial awareness and artistic expression. She also puts together a show each year for her students to help develop their self confidence and this year that lead us to Peter Pan.

Peter Pan was held on the 25th of April in the huge arena in Portimao. The dancers were enabled to use the arena through the generous gesture of the Camara of Portimao when they heard about Marley’s fundraising cause. The show featured various performances of ballet and modern dance of all of Heidi’s talented dance students portraying the magical story of Peter Pan in each piece. From pirates to Indians, crocodiles to tiny fairies, the show was simply marvelous.

Marley had been in Lisbon until the morning of the 25th and I was very nervous how he would be with only one rehearsal and not a lot of understanding on what the event was about. He was incredibly tired however when we got to the arena he was distracted by the lights, music and most importantly the welcoming warm attitude being exuberated from all of the other children. A true reflection of Heidi’s attitude.

When it came to Marley’s performance he wheeled out onto the stage on the second verse of a song from the production Finding Neverland called ‘When Your Feet Don’t Touch the Ground’. With a smile on his face and what seemed like every ounce of energy he had he brought himself out to the cheers of the packed arena. He danced amazingly and brought tears to every member of the audience. He created a huge emotional reaction when he was on stage and the dancers around him enabled him to be part of their routine in such a mature and kind way I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite so powerful.

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After the show we used his last good moments before he really needed a sleep to meet some of the audience. It enabled people to see why we were there and put more weight on what the show was for. People dug deep and contributed a huge amount of money raising over 2330 Euros to go towards Marley’s Foundation. This is a huge contribution to the medical procedures Marley so desperately needs and a huge thank you for everyone’s contribution in making such a change. I am very proud to be part of such an amazing community.

A huge thank you to the wonderful team of parents and volunteers who helped to control so many children and brush so many ponytails into perfect buns. Heidi also wanted to thank the schools and places where she gives lessons for their continued support and enthusiasm. Not to mention her hard working students who have poured their hearts out into rehearsals and the show in the months leading up to the big day.

The show was filmed and photographed by the incredibly talented Paul and Zoe from Phaze Photography. The professional couple clearly love their job more than anything and focus on family and younger years as well as commercial shoots. They set up a booth to take individual photos of the performers and took fabulous footage of the performance. They really know how to capture the absolute best of everyone and manage to really photograph those exact moments which portray so much emotion. I’m really looking forward to working with Phaze for another awareness campaign soon turning disability into super powers through photography. Watch this space...

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Aside from the incredible fundraising, Peter Pan showed that even if you have a disability it doesn’t mean you can’t be involved in sport or expressive arts. If my six year old son danced his heart out in a wheel chair then it really does mean you can do anything you set your mind to. Fear of failure and rejection needs to be pushed aside and events like this being available to show our community it is possible will make a huge difference.

Heidi helped Marley to dance with the body he has and enabled him to embrace his body’s limitations. Dance is a fantastic form of expression and could have a hugely positive impact in many children’s lives, not just Marley. Heidi can increase children’s self-esteem, confidence and ultimately see themselves in a new light, with or without wheels.  

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Once this nightmare gets easier I want to be able to help other mums with similar problems. I want to be able to set up a support group where people can go or children can experience fun with people who really understand. This is what this performance really demonstrated and hopefully we can get enough interest to run a dance class for children with disabilities.

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Only through this experience with Marley have I realized my huge responsibility to him as his mother and equally my responsibility to raise awareness for disability in the Algarve and this is why the show really meant so much to us. He is a wonderful little boy and an inspiration to me and many of you. Please support us by raising awareness for Marley and other children just like him.

Disability doesn’t take away talent, it simply limits opportunities. Teachers like Heidi show that we can provide more opportunities for individuals with disabilities and I won’t rest as a mother until I find them. Giving everyone the opportunity to learn how to dance ensures that all people have the right to experience the transformative power of the arts. Heidi, thank you from the bottom of my heart for showing my sons beauty to the world.

To find out more about Heidi and DancExpression

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To find out more about Phaze photography

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