Story by Ellie Gay

Dance & Rolls’ 3rd annual Gala night – where does one start – this was a night filled with love, laughter, embraces and dancing with a wonderful group of friends, family members and support workers. This was the first time I attended this event, and the first time I was able to meet in person the faces that I have danced with online since July last year.

My name is Ellie, and I became a T5 complete paraplegic at the age of 45, from an accident on our 50 acre property in February last year, in a little rural town called Yea in Victoria. After four months and one day in hospitals and rehab at The Royal Talbot, I came home June 11.

Coming home was a surreal experience, and it was another six weeks before I was able to find and start with a physiotherapist and exercise physiologist, so there was a lot of sitting looking out the window at the birds and reading books.

A few weeks after returning home I was sitting out on my veranda reading a book when my phone rang. It was Josh Hose from AQA asking what I was doing, and seeing if in about 15 minutes I would like to join a zoom session with the SCI Women’s Community Network group – so within 10 minutes I was in the online waiting room ready to meet other women with spinal injuries. It was in this group that I met Rocca, Georgina, and Karen, as well as a few other women. Little did I know these women would be paramount in my health, wellbeing and being part of something wonderful in my future.

I then received an email from Rocca – who is the founder and backbone of Dance & Roll, which is a nonprofit organisation that started three years ago, with the first session being held at The Royal Talbot. Rocca asked if I would like to participate in two free sessions to see if I would be interested in joining in the next term.  It only took one session for me to be hooked with the energy, laughter and fun that exuded from the screen.

Living in a rural town has been fabulous to have a community that is so invested in helping me be the best that I can be. But, being so far away from many activities means that Dance & Roll was a lifeline for me, not only through connecting me with other people in chairs, but to have become a valued member of the Dance & Roll Family. I am now proud to be the secretary of Dance & Roll and this will continue to be a huge part of my life moving forward.

Back to the sensational Gala Night. The event was held at The Darebin Arts Centre, which has been a blessing to have as a place for a social catch-up and an hour of dance each Thursday night, for people who live close enough. The style of dance ranges from Zumba, disco, pop, tango, African beats… the list goes on.

The Gala Night started at 5pm, and despite the most ridiculous downpour, there was a small window where the rain had ebbed enough that we could all get out of our vehicles and start to meet in the foyer (luckily, I wore waterproof mascara). It was the first time I was meeting the Dance & Roll family in person, and it was a surreal experience that will stay with me for life.  We started making our way into the grand room for canapes and drinks and more emotional embraces and conversations. Rocca then started the presentation of gifts to say a huge thank you to our five amazing instructors, who, both online and at the Darebin Arts Centre, have left their fingerprint on the evolution of Dance & Roll. Rocca then announced the winner of the Karen Bloomberg award. Karen was a dear friend to Rocca and an integral part of Dance & Roll, who sadly passed away earlier this year. To honour her involvement Rocca devised an award that would recognise a member’s contribution to this wonderful club. The proud winner of this award was Georgina, who is the treasurer and a vital member of Dance & Roll.

Later on, we had two ladies from Ignite Bollywood involve us in an energetic Bollywood workshop, which everyone thoroughly enjoyed and worked up a sweat in learning the choreography to a Bollywood song. By this stage of the evening all our faces were aching from smiling so much. We kept dancing with three choreographed songs (one including keyword sign, that Karen was a huge advocate for in helping those with disabilities to communicate) that we’d been learning. Next was a free-for-all with a conga line, Grease Lightning, September, and many other upbeat songs. The night was supposed to finish at 8, but I know I left reluctantly at 8.40 after many goodbyes.

Thank you Dance & Roll for everything, and I look forward to many more nights to remember.

  • January 23, 2023

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