It was a powerful moment that brought the house down.
After months of preparation, a dance group from breakthru had just finished their debut performance in the Allcomers section of the Taree and District Eisteddfod to be met with an ovation and tears from the audience.
“I was crying, the adjudicator was crying, just about everyone was crying,” said eisteddfod secretary and dance co-coordinator Margaret Rogers.
Support worker Elise Prosser, who runs the singing and dancing based Bright Stars program for people on the NDIS, is immensely proud. “They’re just amazing. They work so hard.”
The Bright Stars program has been running for about eight months and the group, which includes people with mental and physical disabilities, is working towards staging a musical later in the year.
I was crying, the adjudicator was crying, just about everyone was crying.- Margaret Rogers, Taree and District Eisteddfod
Elise, who describes herself as an “eisteddfod mum”, saw an opportunity to give them another experience when she watched a special needs group dance in the Forster eisteddfod last year.
“I thought, maybe I could get these guys on stage too, and they were really behind it.
“I said to them, if we’re going to do it, let’s make a point. What message do you want to get across? Let’s make it deep. What makes you unique and share something you might be scared to share.”
The song they chose was This is Me from the movie musical The Greatest Showman.
“Then they came up with the words, which included ugly, fat, freak, gay and geek.”
They printed signs with the descriptive words on them and during the routine ripped them up. “They absolutely nailed it.”
Elise, who had never been on stage herself before either, ended up performing with the group when nerves took over one dancer and they wouldn’t go on without her.
They competed in the Allcomers section against other groups entered by dance schools.
As well as a standing ovation, they were awarded a highly commended by adjudicator Lydia Morris.
“They were thrilled,” said Margaret. “They each received a ribbon and the people in the audience were so supportive.
“They were just so good. Nervous, but also wonderful.”
There were tears backstage too, one dancer emotional that people had supported them and another because she had never been given anything in her life.
“I explained that not everyone gets a highly commended. To them, it’s huge,” said Elise.
“These guys have spent their whole lives being told they are not good enough.”
“They’ve had a hard life and some have experienced physical attacks, hideous name calling or been robbed or kicked. Some have lived on the streets.
“I just think that as a support worker you want the world for them and want every happiness for them.
“This is a big thing in their lives. I hope other people can see their worth and they see they can do it and it’s okay to be you and do it.”
These guys have spent their whole lives being told they are not good enough...this is big for them.- Elise Prosser, breakthru support worker
The group will participate in the Forster eisteddfod in July and are working on a musical that they hope to stage in October and have been working on the script and choreography.
“We sat down and talked about the outcome of the Bright Stars program and the goal was to do a production.
“They wanted to be in a play but because of their disability there’s never been anything to fit that.”
Their production is based on the Disney movie Descendants, which tells the story of the children of Disney heroes and villains.
The dance section continues of the eisteddfod continues at the Manning Entertainment Centre until Sunday, with adjudicator Dianne Leatham.
Next up is the speech and drama section, which will be held from May 28 to June 2 and adjudicated by Kristie Thorne.
Instrumental and electric piano runs from June 4 to 8 and will be adjudicated by Jason Noble. June 13 and 14 is the Primary, Infant and Secondary School Choirs section. This will be adjudicated by Lyanne MacFarlane.
The eisteddfod will wrap up with the grand concert on Saturday June 16 at 7.30pm, showcasing selected performers.
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