Autistic Dance Troupe Scoops Second in European Competition

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Streetdance troupe Autism With Attitude street dance group from Hillingdon Manor School, Uxbridge, have helped to change perceptions of young people with autism by competing in the European United Dance Organisations (UDO) Championships in Germany and winning second place in the final.

Part of Outcomes First Group, Hillingdon Manor provides specialist education and support to pupils aged three to 19 with autism.

The street dance troupe faced top level competition in their category from 15 other teams from across Europe – including the current Dutch and French champions, who finished in first and third place respectively. No other group had special needs. Dance teacher Jonathan Baron said the high standard of their rivals did not deter his troupe from its chief aim: “We went there with the mentality of champions. Our goal was not to win but to change the way people look at disability.”

Introduced on stage as simply “AWA” the group was able to perform alongside their rivals without preconceptions or special favours – the judges were completely unaware of the students’ autism before awarding their scores. Five international experts on the judging panel unanimously singled out AWA for “best street dance technique” and “best overall performance”, and also awarded the team several perfect “7”s – the maximum points.  Afterwards, one judge said the group’s performance “gave me goosebumps” and another was “in awe of their achievement”. All were surprised to later discover that all members of the troupe have autism.

Having entered the world of dance with no prior experience, the group has exceeded all expectations to win second place in such a prestigious international mainstream competition – an achievement which their teacher Jonathan says is a “direct result of their hard work and determination to succeed.”

Not only have AWA learned to dance, they have also had to overcome severe anxieties along the way – including fear of flying. To ease anxieties, as part of their preparation for the trip, the group visited Heathrow Airport where staff helped to familiarise them with check-in and security procedures, and they also had the opportunity to experience flight conditions, including take off and landing, in a flight simulator at the O2.

Commenting on the group’s achievement, their dance teacher said: “This experience has bolstered their confidence and they will be able to take this forward into other areas of life. It has been so empowering for the students to realise that they can do things – they just need the right opportunities and someone to invest in them. This is tangible proof that with enough belief in yourself and hard work, you can achieve anything. It’s as simple as that.”

On the flight home, one student summed up his feelings in his own words: “That was the most incredible experience of my whole life. I feel that if I can achieve this, I can achieve anything now!”

Autism With Attitude’s success qualifies them to compete in the UDO World Championships, which take place in Glasgow this August.

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