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Ana dances her way to independence

From the halls of Adelaide to the streets of South Korea, NDIS participant Ana Retallack is dancing her way to independence.

For Feros Care participante Anastasia Retallack, stage nerves have never been a problem – not even when the Adelaide dancer travelled to Seoul to perform in front of sell-out crowds for the largest street arts festival in South Korea.

“I wasn’t nervous,” said Ana, 38, of Enfield.

“I never get nervous because I’ve performed a lot and I’m confident.”

Ana, which is the name she prefers, was born with Down syndrome. The genetic disorder affects Ana’s ability to communicate and safely make her way around her community.

But it doesn’t impact her ability to move—or to move audiences, according to Michelle Ryan, Artistic Director of Adelaide’s Restless Dance Theatre where Anna has danced since she was a teenager.

“Ana has a beautiful quality that shines through every time she performs,” she said.

Ana’s commitment speaks for itself

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) supports Ana to keep on moving. As part of her plan, Ana was attending a weekly dance workshop with Restless and sometimes tutors other dancers.

“I love all music and I love contemporary dance,” Ana said.

“Dancing makes me feel happy and motivated. I like tutoring because I have confidence to do it, I know how to do it.”

From the time she was a little girl, Ana has loved moving to music.

“She had a natural rhythm and feel for movement and I wanted to encourage that to help her with her confidence,” said Ana’s mother, Maria Willis.

“I remember thinking to myself it was a pity she wouldn’t be able to join a dance group. And then I found out about Restless, and it was perfect, they welcomed her.”

At the age of four, Ana started gymnastics. At 15, she joined Restless Dance Theatre. The company embraces dancers of diverse abilities and works with people with and without disability, and its productions are designed to be inclusive and informed by disability.

Ana has performed in numerous Restless dance theatre productions and worked with international company Jerome Bell at the Adelaide Festival.

Last year she performed with Restless Dance Theatre’s production of Intimate Space in South Korea, a collaboration with Korean dancers with disability.

“It was a life changing experience for Ana,” Maria said.

“Going away, she felt independent, it was great for her maturity and really broadened her experience.”

Ana says she enjoyed the experience of another culture.

“It was very different, but the people were friendly, and the food was OK,” she said.

To maintain her movement and connection, Ana has taken to virtual dancing workshops one night a week with Restless and will look to assist others with their dancing later in the year.

“Hopefully Ana will partake in mentoring others at Restless workshops in October where she can continue to learn more and have more experiences with her dancing,” Maria said.

The positive impact of the NDIS on our participants

Anna has also been learning to cook her own meals at home with help from NDIS support workers, who teach her life skills, including cooking and handling money.

The NDIS has also funded Ana’s transport to and from her work at a restaurant, where she has worked for nearly 20 years.

“The NDIS helps me a lot,” Ana said.

“It’s helping me be a better person, to be more independent and do things myself. I want to be able to cook my own meals to be independent.”

Maria self-manages Ana’s NDIS plan with the help of Feros Care Local Area Coordinator, Julie Springett. She says she changed from being agency-managed because it gives Ana more flexibility and choice.

“It helps keep our options open so Ana can do the things she wants to do,” she said.

“Her life has definitely improved since joining the NDIS. It’s not just about learning to cook, for example, it’s about interacting with other people and having conversations with them.

“That’s very important for her.”

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