Jul 18

BRIGHT SIDE: Stepping up for dance

Megan Sutton in her dance class Chance2Dance. Picture: Simone De PeakSIMON WALKER: Bright Side archive

Fired by personal loss and the desire to give everyone a fair go, dance teacher and choreographer Megan Sutton has set up a dance school devoted entirely to kids with special needs.

Chance2Dance operates out of Saint Columba’s Primary School in Adamstown each Sunday, offering different classes for children, teens and young adults with a disability.

The school was established in large part to honour Megan’s daughter Monique, who was born with Down Syndrome.

But the desire to open up the world of dance for all kids, not just able-bodied, was one that has burned within Megan for years.

‘‘I want these kids to realise what they are capable of and that they can experience being on a stage in front of an audience with costumes,great music and funky movements,’’ Megan said.

‘‘A lot of the other dance schools go to festivals and perform, so I want my kids to do everything that a so-called normal dance school would do while being not for profit.

‘‘These kids, teens and young adults are talented, they can move and groove and they want people to appreciate it.’’

Megan observed that there were few avenues that took a dedicated dance approach to kids with disabilities in terms of the presentation, expectations and discipline synonymous with dance.

‘‘I want people to know there won’t be any exceptions made at my school. It doesn’t have to be over the top but they will be footed out as a proper dance school, with lots of fantastic opportunities.’’

It’s something that Megan has wanted to do for a long time, but the birth and diagnosis of Monique galavanised her to action.

‘‘When I fell pregnant, Monique had DS and from that stemmed the prenatal diagnosis encouraging termination from the medical world,’’ she said.

‘‘But that hardened my resolve to move forward – I knew she was going to be perfect. I want the world to embrace a prenatal diagnosis with the love they would any so called “normal” pregnancy. And get the right information from the right people.

‘‘I knew then that one of my purposes in life was letting people to know there was nothing wrong with having a child with disability.’’

Monique was born with heart complications which are common with DS babies.

Unfortunately they masked her underlying chronic lung disease issues.

‘‘She passed away at 20 months in September,’’ Megan said. “My life with her will always be the happiest days of my life.

‘‘So in one way the school is in her honour, but we were moving towards establishing it before then. I know she is watching over me, making this adventure extra specia.

‘‘I just want these kids to perform at Disneyland, because you know what, they can.’’

Megan has extensive background in dancing and dance schools.

She started out at the Johnny Young Talent School and went on to many stage, and theatre shows. She was an, illusionist assistant in ‘Silvers Circus’, and a cheerleader with the Newcastle Knights before becoming the cheerleading coach.

She was on the sidelines for both the Knights premierships (1997, 2001) – with Jennifer Hawkins in fact, whose rise to world attention started at the Knights.

Since then Megan has coached the Pirates NBA cheer squads, Jets cheerleading squads and for the last several years has been in charge of the Parramatta Eels junior and senior cheerleading squads.

Megan has also taught at different dance studios including her own and is also a qualified pre-school teacher.

‘‘I’ve been dancing or teaching dance pretty much all my life,’’ Megan said. “And I’m hoping this will grow.”

Megan is looking to run Chance2Dance year round on a school term basis and they are already working towards their first performance at Step Up! for Down Syndrome awareness day onNovember 23.

For further information contact Megan Sutton on0410 679 482