Jen Blackwell

Jen Blackwell - Founder, Dance Syndrome

Founder of Dance Syndrome

Jen Blackwell knew from a young age that her future lay in dance, and when she was unable to find a dance training program that was accessible and appropriate to her needs, rather than giving up on her dream, she created her own. DanceSyndrome was founded in 2009 and has gone from strength to strength ever since.

Dance Syndrome’s vision is simple: to empower learning-disabled individuals through inclusive dance. It is unique in being led by dancers with learning disabilities, who work inclusively with professionally trained dance artists, and strives to continue to provide new and exciting opportunities for people who may otherwise be excluded from mainstream dance. They have an equal number of learning-disabled and non-disabled company members, and they provide inclusive dance and leadership opportunities for people who believe disability need not be a barrier to living life to the full.

Jen Blackwell, who is the founder and Creative Director of the charity, and who has Down’s Syndrome, is the perfect example of this. Despite being written off at birth, she now lives the most extraordinary, ‘normal’ life, which has included attending the Queen’s Garden Party at Buckingham Palace for services to the community, an invitation to the House of Lords to talk about her incredible achievements, and meeting her heroine, singer Alexandra Burke, at the world-famous Pineapple Dance Studios in London to perform her own specially choreographed dance to the singer’s hit record, Hallelujah!.

In Jen’s words, “I owe my life to my dancers. They give me my life in dance, and I give them opportunities to live their lives in dance”. She adds, “But the most important thing we offer is friendships, and the chance to go out in the world no matter what your disability”.