“It has changed my life”

“It has changed my life”

Danielle Stitfall and James Bardill put on a rousing display at Government House for the Governor and his wife.

Danielle Stitfall was a self-confessed introvert before dancing opened up a whole new world.

The 39-year-old Gosnells woman, who was born with spina bifida, made history last year by becoming the first Australian to compete in the International Para Dance Sport Championships.

“It brings me out of my shell and gives me a lot of self-confidence, especially performing in front of a lot of people. It has helped me with my life skills, being independent, social skills and my fitness,” she said.

“I have made heaps of new friends. I have my self-belief in my capabilities back.

“I was quite the introvert; very quiet and shy and now I am dancing regularly in front of hundreds of people.”

Danielle’s journey began in 2018 while playing wheelchair basketball.

“I was playing wheelchair basketball at the time through Rebound WA and I believe they were approached by DanceSport WA to see if dancing would be feasible in wheelchairs,” she said.

“It is very popular in Europe and Asia and I was one of the ones asked if I would be interested in going along and I have been dancing ever since.”

Danielle’s partner in dancing is 21-year-old James Bardill, who discovered the joys of Para Dancing a few years ago.

“I have been in ballroom dancing industry for 10 plus years and coming out of school I wanted to make my teaching career really kick off and there is nothing like teaching Para and Ability Dance,” he said.

“I just find it really enjoyable to meet lots of different people with different life perspectives.

“I find it really rewarding progressing their dancing with either an intellectual or physical disability because it’s really amazing as to how much you can do.”

James first caught the Para Dance bug after contacting Darryl Davenport, Chair of Para and Ability Dance WA, a local charity for local dancers with a disability.

Darryl said Para Dance had its beginnings in 2017 when DanceSport WA applied for a grant to try para dancing.
“We were able to establish a come and try day and we did two competitions,” Darryl said.

“In 2018 we started competitions for para dancing. Para and Ability Dance WA started in 2019 and we saw there was a few issues and we needed a common voice for dancers living with disability.

“It is a very inclusive sport; we now have a vision impaired category and we now have an all-ability category for people with intellectual disabilities.”

Both Danielle and James are currently busy rehearsing for the third annual Special Olympics Dance Sport Development competition next month.

“People are amazed that it can be done. Not many people have seen it before with their own eyes and they don’t believe it’s a possibility. People have to see it to believe it almost,” Danielle said.

“People with disabilities might not think they are capable of dancing, but we as a group have proved that we can and be quite successful at it.

“Most importantly we have fun doing it, it has changed my life in so many amazing ways.”

The third annual Special Olympics DanceSport Development Competition will be held on June 2nd and 3rd at the Shirley Strickland Sport and Community Pavilion in Ardross, within the City of Melville from 2pm until 5pm.

Entry is free for spectators.

Darryl Davenport, Chairman of Para and Ability Dance WA, with Danielle Stitfall and her dancing partner James Bardill.