Dream to dance on stage comes true behind closed doors at Limerick's Belltable

A WISH by Enable Ireland service users to dance during lockdown may have seemed impossible to grant but heaven and earth was moved to help them move on stage.

Mary Hartney, integrated dance facilitator, said the first lockdown was very difficult for many at Enable Ireland, Castleconnell.

“They felt very isolated and alone. They had so little to do at home. They had worked hard at learning to engage more and more with the local community in Castleconnell since Enable Ireland opened its doors there in March 2017. They had felt great independence in going to the shops and amenities in the village but in lockdown all that confidence was eroded away.

“Some friends never came out of lockdown due to underlying conditions and are sadly missed as they continue to stay at home. Those that did return were greatly relieved that they could continue with their activities and training for this lockdown as Enable Ireland is classed as an essential service,” said Mary.

One of the activities continued is integrated dance but in a totally different format. Usually each service user would work with TY students but this was impossible due to Covid. Enable Ireland service users had expressed a desire to work with more experienced dancers in March. The timing was now perfect.

The Limerick Culture and Arts Department welcomed their funding being used in a manner that was safe for the people at Enable Ireland. Mary consulted with Enable Ireland about required restrictions that would help prevent transfer of Covid-19 during dance activity. It was decided that four service users– Ricky Coonan, Aisling Arthur, Mark Dunne, Trevor Kennedy – would work with three professional dancers and a volunteer from the staff at Enable Ireland – Micheal Rowsome, Emilie Brown, Robert Kelly and Chloe Browne.

Together, over five workshops at Nicole Sweeney Dance Studio they made four dance duets. Last week, Ricky, Aisling, Mark and Trevor performed behind closed doors in the Belltable. They were recorded and will be online next month.

“They feel very proud about the quality of the performance of their duets,” said Mary, who credits Nancy Geary, manager at Enable Ireland, Castleconnell, as the key person driving the dance programme. Ricky says he likes dancing because dance doesn’t discriminate.

“Dance doesn’t’ care who you are or where you come from. It doesn't matter if you have a disability or if you're young or older. One of the greatest things about dancing is that you get to meet and work beside different people and we’re all united in dance.  So whether you're in a wheelchair or standing up, using walking sticks or just sitting on a chair there’s always a place for you in dance,” said Ricky. Mary thanked Dr Pippa Little, Limerick Culture and Arts Office; Dominic Kosicki, Red Paw Media; Nicole Sweeney; Belltable; all in Enable Ireland.

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