Created by Step Change Studios and Metro Blind Sport, Dance Dosti is supporting people from a South Asian background with sight loss to be active through dance.

Funded by the Vision Foundation, the first phase of the project is Dance Dosti digital, a website containing over 100 dance sessions in English, Bengali, Gujarati and Hindi. All sessions are delivered by South Asian dancers, with a choice of seated and standing dance, and video and audio formats for different abilities.

A team of dancers from Dance Dosti

Step Change Studios Founder Rashmi Becker, who was recognised with an MBE for services to disabled people in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List, said: “The idea for Dance Dosti came from seeing the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on people from certain demographics.

“People from a South Asian background and disabled people have reported greater isolation and inactivity. As an inclusive dance provider, we know the positive difference dance makes to our quality of life, irrespective of age or ability. It benefits both body and mind.

Dance Dosti dancer in the studio

“Our free digital programme is designed as short sessions that can fit into daily life. We want to support people to enjoy learning to dance, to be active at home, and to transition to creative and physical activity outside the home.”

The Dance Dosti project will promote physical activity and use the benefits of dance to bring people together and improve health and wellbeing. The project combines different elements including home and community-based dance, engaging local partners and volunteers to support participation, and providing advice for dance and fitness providers on inclusive practice.
Martin Symcox, CEO of Metro Blind Sport said: “Blind and partially sighted people face barriers in taking part in physical activity and engaging in social activities. I am pleased that this exciting project with Rashmi and her team at Step Change Studios is designed to overcome these barriers and open opportunities up to dance.

“Within the visually impaired community there are certain groups who can face a “double disadvantage”. This programme aims to empower and target at-risk communities through a tailored approach, that will enable people to be active by engaging them in spaces and ways they prefer”.

Dance Dosti Dancer Showmi

Olivia Curno, Chief Executive of the Vision Foundation, said: “We couldn’t be more excited about funding this project. While it’s about music, movement and fun, it’s also so much more. Dance Dosti provides opportunities for an underserved community to engage in an activity to boost both physical and mental health. Learning from the programme will inform the development of more diverse, inclusive opportunities to be creative and active.”

A series of free community-based programmes will be piloted from Autumn 2021. These accessible sessions will be tailored to local communities, supporting blind and partially sighted people to learn to dance and to develop their potential.

Dance Dosti will monitor the impact of dance on a range of measures including mental and physical health, confidence, friendships, increasing independence, and learning new skills. Learning from the programme will inform the development of more diverse, inclusive opportunities to be creative and active.

Feature image credit: Dani Campion