Finding Joy

in Dance

By Joshua Preyser

It all started when I got involved with Ballroom and Latin American dancing in 2009 through The Chaeli Campaign thanks to my good friend, Chaeli Mycroft and her mom, Zelda. In fact, my first ever taste of Ballroom dancing was a bit earlier than that. When I was in Grade 7 at Bergvliet Primary School a Grade 7 evening took place where Grade 7 learners had an evening together with our parents and Ballroom dancing happened to be the theme of the evening. That was my first ever taste of the sport and for someone who is blind, like me, who never danced before back then I really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, I never got the chance to take it further because of everyday life until two years later.

In 2008 I started my high school career at Bergvliet High School and that was when I met and became friends with Chaeli. We met for the first time at one of the open days the year before so in the beginning of the school year we were just doing our own thing. Then one break time, out of the blue, Chaeli  stopped at the place where I would sit and we started chatting randomly and that was when our friendship really took off. Just so that people know, the way I identify a person using a wheelchair is through the sound of the motor so at break times whenever I would hear Chaeli’s wheelchair coming towards me through the distinct sound of the motor I would know that she was coming to enjoy her breaks with me. Most of the time she told me stories about her adventures she had through dancing as she was already involved in the sport back then and I found them very interesting. A huge shout out to Chaeli for an awesome friendship which still exists today and long may it last.

Then 2009 came around and one day Chaeli and Zelda invited me to visit the group Chaeli was dancing with at the time in an effort to get me involved in the sport. Before then I was swimming training four times a week for fitness which I didn’t have a problem with because I enjoy swimming as well. Veon, my partner back then, was a gem. Our partnership instantly took off as soon as we met, got to know each other and started dancing together. We still chat online occasionally nowadays and find out how we’ve been doing. I’ll always remember her as my first partner ever and I still have awesome memories of our partnership which I’ll never forget. Everyone in the group was taken by surprise at how quickly I managed to pick up the steps. Maybe it was largely thanks to my fun weekly Djembe drumming sessions back then that gave me rhythm and dancing also boosted my taste in Big Band Swing Jazz and old-school Rock N Roll music which I’ve enjoyed listening to ever since. No sooner had I joined the group I was entered into my first ever competition. So, I went out there and danced with the intention of just having fun out there as I was still new to the sport so it was really thrilling for all of us when I came first for both Ballroom and Latin in my category.

2010 was an interesting year for dancing as well as fun because we were involved in a show called Soar Like an Eagle which was about how our friend, Mukhtar, came to be the person that he is today through dancing. Although not much dancing itself took place that year I was involved in the dancing scenes of the show and what made it enjoyable for me personally was that although the show did have its ups and downs I enjoyed being there and having fun with everyone. It was also the year when my second competition took place and I again managed to take first place for both Ballroom and Latin in my category. I was also privileged to receive a third trophy that day which was awarded to, if I remember correctly, the best dancer of the day, or something to that effect.

2011 and 2012 sadly didn’t see much dancing taking place for me as things sadly fell apart at school and I ended up at the school for the blind in Pretoria but whenever the opportunity came I would squeeze in some dancing on my termly visits home to Cape Town for the holidays and that would also give me the chance to visit everyone and catch up. At this point The Chaeli Campaign had started up their own dancing group as part of the Chaeli Sports and Recreation Club which started in 2010 and the dance group started in 2011. Although I made some good friends up in Pretoria I still feel more at home here in Cape Town and thinking of everyone at dancing was really what got me through those two years.  My final flight home after my last Matric exam was the most enjoyable out of all the journeys I’ve done on a plane between Pretoria and Cape Town.

2018: Josh and Vilia compete in the SADF National Dance Championships in Cape Town

2017: Josh with the Rotterdam University students team who climbed Devil’s Peak with him

2010: Josh having fun in the CSRC inclusive Tenpin Bowling league

In 2013 I started dancing again and I’ve never stopped since. This time I became part of the Chaeli Sports and Recreation Club dance group with Damian, Chaeli’s most recent partner who sadly is no longer with us as he passed away last year (2020), and Chantelle as the facilitators with Chaeli officially joining them in recent years. I have had three partners since my return to dancing because every time something unexpected happened to one partner causing them to stop dancing as a result, another one was always ready to take over which I had no problem with personally because my main goal is to have fun with everyone while dancing, and competing is all part of the fun as well. Out of all the partners I’ve had since my return to dancing, my 4th and most recent partner, Vilia, has been the most successful. She unfortunately got diagnosed with cancer in 2013 and as an incredible survivor she made her victorious return to dancing in 2015. She basically came  straight for me and said, “Got you! You’re my partner now,” and she has been my partner right up until now. In recent years, whenever our group had people visiting us to see what we do best or when we have people joining us for the first time , Damian, Chaeli and Chantelle would get us involved, including me, with assisting them to teach the visitors the basic steps for each dance that we currently do.

In conclusion, dancing for me is really about having fun with friends who have the same passion for the sport, and although I take part in competitions and demos as well as attend practices on a Sunday, I think of competing as part of the fun as well. If I come first, Fantastic! If I’m the only blind person taking part in a competition or demo, that’s also a good thing in a way because I believe I’m assisting The Chaeli Campaign and the CSRC to promote the sport for other blind people. If I don’t come first at a competition, it’s not a big deal because the main objective for me will always be to have fun showing off my talent to everyone so I see coming first at a competition as a bonus.

Another advantage I have as a blind person is that I’m not nervous when I go out onto the floor and dance at competitions and demos. I also end up not being able to sleep at night sometimes, especially around the time of a big competition/demo at the end of the year, sometimes the night before but in most cases when I get home at night after the event, and also after our recent end-of-year awards evenings at the Bergvliet Sports Association where we practise every Sunday. This is because I get really hyped up around those kinds of events, so it’s very hard for me to go home, go to bed and instantly fall asleep, even when I’m tired. But that tells me that I’ve had loads of fun out there which is always the main goal for me.

A huge shout out to everyone from dancing for making each practice, competition and demo such huge loads of fun, especially Vilia for the awesome partnership we’ve had for the past few years. Also to our current facilitators, Chaeli and Chantelle, for being such awesome facilitators as well as friends I enjoy spending time with. I admit that whenever Chantelle dances with me, mostly to show me new steps and occasionally for fun, I feel as if I’ve been dancing with her for years because of how quickly I manage to pick the steps up and how they all fall into place so quickly.

To promote and provide sports and recreational opportunities for people with disabilities in an inclusive social and sporting environment.

Contact

Tel: 

021 7623835

Email: 

info@chaelisports.co.za

Physical address:

16 Culm Road,
Plumstead
Cape Town
7800

Bank Details

The Chaeli Sports & Recreation Club

First National Bank

Plumstead (201109)

Account No: 6228 0277 437

Legal Status:

NPO Registration No: 078-277 NPO

PBO Registration No: 930037322

Follow Us

Visit the Chaeli Campaign

To promote and provide sports and recreational opportunities for people with disabilities in an inclusive social and sporting environment.

Contact

Tel: 

021 7623835

Email: 

info@chaelisports.co.za

Physical address:

16 Culm Road,
Plumstead
Cape Town
7800

Bank Details

The Chaeli Sports & Recreation Club

First National Bank

Plumstead (201109)

Account No: 6228 0277 437

Legal Status:

NPO Registration No: 078-277 NPO

PBO Registration No: 930037322

Follow Us

Visit the Chaeli Campaign

To promote and provide sports and recreational opportunities for people with disabilities in an inclusive social and sporting environment.

Contact

Tel: 

021 7623835

Email: 

info@chaelisports.co.za

Physical address:

16 Culm Road,
Plumstead
Cape Town
7800

Bank Details

The Chaeli Sports & Recreation Club

First National Bank

Plumstead (201109)

Account No: 6228 0277 437

Legal Status:

NPO Registration No: 078-277 NPO

PBO Registration No: 930037322

Follow Us

Visit the Chaeli Campaign

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