Blind and partially sighted people have taken to the dance floor to perform for a live audience for the very first time. 

The special event in Newham aimed to highlight the work of 'Dance Dosti', a programme targeting South Asian people with sight loss to be active through dance. 

The programme is created and led by inclusive dance company Step Change Studios and supported by Metro Blind Sport and Vision Foundation. 

Dance Dosti is a one-year initiative that is using dance to improve physical and mental health, tackle social isolation and improve community engagement.

Step Change Studios Founder, Rashmi Becker, who recently received an MBE for services to disabled, people said: “It is both exciting and satisfying to see people who have never danced before proudly stepping on stage to perform for a live audience. 

"Dance Dosti has highlighted the stigma that exists towards disability within communities but also the joy and confidence people experience in being able to access dance in a safe, supportive and sociable space.” 

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The dance performances were accompanied by live sitar and tabla music performed by blind musician Baluji Shrivastav OBE, who is the Founder of the Baluji Music Foundation and Inner Vision Orchestra. 

Esme Khalique who is blind and performed a dance duet said: “I have never done anything like this; I’m a bedroom dancer. This has been amazing. When you’re blind and have a disability, people may not expect much of you but that’s not the case with our dance classes. 

"The teacher is informative and makes sure we are doing things right, which is important. The last thing you want is to feel patronised; you want to be treated like a proper student – and that’s what we get.” 

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Sajida Shah, another blind participant who performed said: "I think South Asian people tend to do less for just themselves and concentrate more on family. Dancing lifts my mood and gives me time to do something for myself instead of housework. I enjoy coming out, being part of a group and moving to the music.” 

During the evening, participants also took part in an audience Q&A and Dance Dosti partners spoke of their support for the initiative. 

Martin Symcox, CEO of Metro Blind Sport said: “We are consistently hearing from participants just how much they enjoy being active, meeting people who share their lived experience, and the breadth of benefits that dancing provides. 

"However, participants have also talked about limited opportunities and being excluded from physical activity in the past. This is why Dance Dosti has focused on providing accessible dance while also engaging with the dance and fitness sector to develop better practice.”