DOGS are not usually welcome dance companions.
But guide dogs and white sticks will feature at Oxfordshire’s first dance session for the blind today.
Organisers hope the sessions will become a regular fixture for people with sight problems.
The idea came from Roz Keene, who has been registered blind for six years, after she attended this year’s Dancin’ Oxford festival.
She said: “There was an open air performance in Broad Street, and I was watching the tap dancing.“ Mrs Keene, 55, was reminded of her youthful dancing days and said: “I have always danced, right from childhood. I did seriously dream of being a dancer.
“I trained at the London Contemporary Dance School in the evenings during my 20s and then trained as a dance teacher.
“Then I was struck down with this rare neurological condition – dystonia – seven years ago. It affects muscles in my head and neck, particularly in my eyes.”
Now she is partially sighted and relies on her guide dog Daisy.
She said: “I found it really difficult to join in dance classes – it’s quite a struggle – especially classes where the teacher doesn’t speak and expects you to follow their movements, like Zumba.
“I decided to see if there was anything I could do.
“I asked the organiser of the dance that I was watching about classes for blind people, and I was met with stunned silence.”
The Harwell resident decided to set up her own group.
Now, with the help of Oxford City Council and the Oxfordshire Association for the Blind (OAB), Mrs Keene can relive her dancing dreams.
She said: “We found an experienced dance teacher, and she’s had lots of experience of working with different groups of people.
“She’s come up with some fantastic ideas to make it completely accessible.
“We’ve had a really positive response – everyone is really looking forward to it.”
There will be five dance volunteers to help with the class.
Mrs Keene said: “There’s not a lot of dancing for the blind in the UK. This is the start of something, and there is no limit.”
Director of OAB Colin Cure said: “We’re very keen to support what Roz is doing. I’m very pleased and impressed with what she’s done to set this up.
“This is an opportunity which is going to be very valued by people.
“People find it difficult to go along to a class of that nature that isn’t specifically designed for them.”
Claire Thompson, the city council’s arts development officer, said: “This would be a wonderful thing to offer to other people with sight problems.
“There’s been quite a lot of interest for this taster session.
“While we’re not funding it at the moment, we would love to support it in the future.”
The session will take place today from 3pm to 4.30pm at St Luke’s Church, Canning Crescent, Oxford, and it will cost £5.
For more information call 01865 725595.
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