At our Annual Conference, we addressed the stigma of bowel, bladder and sexual complications following injury including those with a spinal cord injury. We also heard from people who don't live with the stigma, they overcome it!
Our corporate charity partner, Para Dance UK, works tirelessly to develop and promote dance as a sport and an inclusive leisure activity across the UK and have shared an inspiring story from Paula Moulton who's determination has seen her compete at an international level and even got her a place in the semi-final of Britain's Got Talent!
Para Dance UK is a charity and the national governing body for Para Dance Sport in the UK. Its aim is to develop and promote dance as a sport and an inclusive leisure activity across the country.
As well as progressing dancers across the UK through regional and national competitions, Para Dance also develop highly competitive athletes at an international level.
One such athlete is Paula Moulton, from Manchester. Paula is an award-winning international wheelchair dancer, Britain’s Got Talent semi-finalist, and huge advocate for the positive power of dance. But that wasn’t always the case.
“I can’t say that dancing is something that I’ve always been interested in,” Paula laughs, “Unless it was a social thing when going out with friends. In fact, I remember being kicked out of ballet after six months as a kid!
“It wasn’t until I had the opportunity to try dancing again as an adult that I realised how much I love it.”
From those inauspicious beginnings nine years ago, Paula has risen to the highest level of the sport and routinely dances in IPC (International Paralympic Committee) competitions.
“I dance five times a week now” said Paula, “That includes Team GB training twice a week and teaching our own club, as well as teaching another couple of classes.
“Over the course of the week, I dance around 16 hours. Within that, I do Latin, freestyle, duo, social dancing, and line dancing. There’s something for everyone in dance.”
Being at the top of her game means that Paula has had to get used to certain questions being asked of her. She explains: “A lot of people ask me if my bladder and bowel issues were a barrier to me taking up dancing. To be honest, I didn’t even think about it.
“I mean, we’ve had a few near misses over the years, and there’s been a few outfits that have got wet and a few emergency frying sessions, but you learn to manage it. Having bladder and bowel issues isn’t a barrier to dancing at all.
“It never crossed my mind that it would be, and it hasn’t been. Yes, I have a catheter and I get a lot of bladder spasms that mean that I can be incontinent, and that does lead you to worry that very expensive dresses could be about to get ruined, but you learn to factor this in and choose fabrics accordingly.
“For me, the only way that bladder and bowel issues would be a barrier is if you make them a barrier. I know that some people have a lot more anxiety around their condition than I do, but it’s only a problem if you let it be. I prefer to focus on what I can do rather than what I can’t do. It’s about your outlook as much as anything.”
So, what keeps an award-winning athlete going after five years at the top level?
“There’s an element of escapism to dancing,” Paula explains; “Because you have to concentrate so much on what you’re doing. Being in the moment like that is freeing. Having to really focus on the dancing is relaxing for me. It lets me forget about everything else outside of dancing.
“No matter what you’re training for, you have to treat it the same. Whether it’s an IPC competition in Prague or a demonstration at a school fete, you have to give the same level of commitment.”
If Paula’s story has inspired you to find out more about inclusive dance, head to Para Dance’s website www.paradance.org.uk