Empower in Motion: A Ballet Inclusive
Rating: ★★★★★
Venue: Sadler's Wells
Cast: Buffini Chao Foundation, English National Opera, Royal Ballet School, National Youth Ballet, OneDanceUK, Propel Dance, StopGap, ICanDance, Parable Dance, ParaDance, SouthEast Dance, Joseph Powell-Main, Hannah Rudd, Rebecca Fowler, Maria Kochetkova, Daniil Simkin, Emile Gooding, Tianie-Finn Grainger, Denecia Allen, Alice Bellini, Sangeun Lee, Gareth Haw and Shiori Kase.

Combining well-known classical repertoire and original contemporary styles of inclusive movement, this gala brings together disabled and non-disabled dancers to tell a moving and inspiring story of unity, resilience and the transformative power of art.

Children Today was founded in 1994, helping to fund and provide specialist and adapted equipment to disabled young people under the age of 25 across the UK. The Empower In Motion fundraising gala marked the charity’s 30th anniversary which not only brought in significant proceeds for the trust, but also to promote and support a selection of fantastic organisations all working to pave the way for a more inclusive arts industry. Dancers from the Royal Ballet School and National Youth Ballet were showcased alongside performances from some of these organisations to create a sensational evening full of love, celebration, and insane amounts of talent.

The show was opened by Joseph Powell-Main and Hannah Rudd with their piece entitled ‘Sleepwalker’; a haunting, beautiful composition directed by Alexander Campbell and choreographed by Kristen McNally. The pair demonstrated exquisite control, every single moment so precise, and navigated the space with pure beauty and artistry. Their performance set the bar sky high, where it proceeded to stay for the entire evening, as one act after another blew minds and touched hearts.

Next up was an excerpt from The Snow Queen, featuring Rebecca Fowler. Propel Dance are the UK’s first all-wheelchair professional dance company, with Artistic Direction by Helen Mason, who is also director of Freewheelin Dance Company. They debuted a full length version of The Snow Queen in Birmingham in 2023, and if the 2 minutes we were treated to is anything to go by, it’s absolutely magical and we can only hope it gets some life more locally.

Emile Gooding and Tianie-Finn Grainger are students at the Royal Ballet School, and performed a piece called Ode To Love Lost created by fellow student Maia Rose Roberts. The performance was truly stunning, Gooding and Grainger floating through the air completely as one, appearing effortless.

Further performances included a world premiere of The Owl Falls by Maria Kochetkova & Daniil Simkin, Le Corsaire, danced by Daniil Simkin & Shiori Kase, and Giselle by Sangeun Lee & Gareth Haw. All of which showed off the spectacular talent, technique, and artistry of those at the Royal Ballet School. We were also treated with a duet performance from the National Youth Ballet company of Romeo & Juliet, which was exceedingly stunning, although I would have loved to seen more of the company.

The absolute highlight of the evening however came in the form of a double bill from Stopgap Dance Company, set to a stunning and unbelievably clever mixture between audio description and spoken word. It was mesmerising and magical to watch the ensemble piece, and equally so with the solo, where dancer Nadenh describes himself and his chair as dancing together, which is the only accurate description that could be given. 

ICanDance stunned us with their performance of Reunion, which shared an incredible amount of trust and joy between the dancers that was palpable to the audience and injected power into each moment. The spectacular evening was closed by Joseph Powell-Main sharing the world premiere of his piece Passionately Defiant, a gorgeous, dramatic rhetoric showing the true meaning behind dynamic disability and perfectly crowing the entire evening.

It was an absolute honour and joy to be a part of this incredible space, to be invited to join and write about a space that holds such an important place in my heart. As a disabled artist and access consultant, everything I do has a focus on creating inclusive spaces where everyone is not only welcome, but actively invited; and to see such big steps being made was extremely emotional and a truly heart-warming experience. We need more events like this to not only show the world the importance of the arts being accessible to everyone, but showcasing how absolutely beautiful inclusivity is, and what it brings to the artistic space.

Review written by Rachel Sarah Leveney

**photo credit to Ryan Browne**

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