Matt started Hip Hop dancing with Bust A Move Dance (BAMD) in 2013 to keep fit and mix with a different social group. He really enjoyed the classes but had to overcome some anxiety and shyness to be able to perform in front of an audience.
So when the opportunity arose for the group to perform at the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles, I wasn’t sure if Matt would be able to meet the expectations and performance demands of the trip. He said he was keen to go, but then would start to feel overwhelmed by it all and ‘change his mind’. Once the flights were booked, however, Matt and I knew there was no turning back!
The schedule leading up to the trip was quite demanding with Matt having to do a lot of extra practice and even whole day rehearsals. The teachers had very high expectations of all the students and Matt sometimes struggled with this, but also learned a lot along the way about being resilient and committed to a team. The troupe did some performances in Brisbane before leaving to get used to dancing in front of a big crowd, and this helped Matt feel more confident about what he was about to embark upon.
Finally, the big day came and Matt and I flew out of Brisbane with the group of dancers, teachers and parents/carers. The schedule didn’t slow down once we arrived in LA as extra rehearsals were needed to make sure the performances were polished enough for the world stage! The first performance was at National Dance Day in front of a large crowd and Matt’s group was thrilled to be introduced by Nigel Lythgoe, a presenter of “So You Think You Can Dance”. The group performed beautifully alongside other world class Hip Hop performers, and got an amazing reaction from the crowd. Matt danced a solo piece which I hadn’t seen him perform before, and despite feeling anxious prior to taking the stage, he “nailed it”, bringing tears to my eyes. I was so proud of him. I never imagined that he would be able to achieve this high standard, and be performing in LA alongside groups without disabilities. The high expectations of the teachers had achieved so much, and what struck me was the importance of focusing on people’s abilities, not their limitations.
Over the next week, the group performed on 6 more occasions at UCLA and University of Southern California. They were so well received by the crowds, and each performance was better than the last. Matt was often asked by audience members for a photo after his performances. He was bursting with self-confidence and, socially, was mixing with others and making new friends.
Once the performances were over, it was time to tour! We took a bus tour to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. Matt and I had a ball and even pushed ourselves to walk the glass bottomed Skywalk out over the Grand Canyon. What a thrill!