Rosa Hopkirk at a Dance for Abilities event. Image supplied.
New Zealand Fashion Week 2019 is not far away now and in amongst all the designer fashion shows will be a special fashion show and dance party for people with disabilities by an organisation called Dance for Abilities. Auckland Town Hall’s Concert Chamber will be taken over by hundreds of partygoers with intellectual disabilities who will dance their hearts out on the dance floor and enjoy a special fashion show featuring 15 models with intellectual disabilities who will get to strut their stuff on the runway. It’s happening as part of NZ Fashion Week’s renewed focus on diversity and accessibility and is set to be a magical night for those involved.
We caught up with Dance for Abilities NZ director Dan Hopkirk to find out more about the event, how it came about and what it means for those who get to enjoy it.
Can you tell us how Dance For Abilities came about and what the first event was like?
Dance For Abilities came about because our little sister Rosa who is down syndrome didn’t get the opportunity to go out partying with us as we grew up. Rosa was the life of the party at home and loved to dance when we had parties, but there were never really the right environments for her to go out and party with us. We have three brothers Callum, Daniel and Jonathan and the youngest brother Jonathan DJs and decided to do an event for people like Rosa. This started in Bondi in 2017 and I brought it to New Zealand last year.
The first event in Auckland was great with about 150 people in attendance and it was awesome! Star Wars theme, dance offs, pamper stations, very colourful and full of surprises.
What does it mean to people with intellectual disabilities to have this kind of event available and what has the response been like?
The reaction has told us a lot about what it means to the intellectually disabled community. We started with 150 people in attendance now we are selling out 300 tickets in under 2 hours. The intellectually disabled community are no different to us, they really love the ability to try out the best bars, clubs and events. The fact that we have been able to open doors through our work is an added bonus.
We heard you’re having an event at NZFW this year, can you tell us how it came about?
Yes we feel very privileged to get this opportunity. The opportunity came about as my business Crave is doing some work with Fashion Week which gave us the connection to Dame Pieter and her team. We managed to have a conversation about the NZFW agenda which is centralised around diversity this year so this fits in perfectly. We aim to put on events that enable people from the intellectual disabled community feel like rockstars and our event at NZ Fashion Week will be no different.
Jono, Rosa and Dan Hopkirk. Image supplied.
What can we expect from the night and which local designers are involved?
At the heart of Dance For Abilities is dancing, so expect to see lots of dancing as this is something that unites us all! This show will give the opportunity to 15 individuals with intellectual disabilities to get up on the catwalk and strut their stuff in some of the most well renowned fashion brands in NZ. Designers that have come onboard for the DFA show include: Hailwood, Zambesi, Nope Sisters, Tuesday Label, Lemon Tree Design and Jeanine Clarkin. We are talking to a few more big names so watch this space.
We have fashion royalty Dame Pieter Stewart and Liz Findlay from Zambesi on hand to judge the best on the catwalk, the dance off and the best dressed prizes (just for fun).
What’s your favourite part of holding the events and where will we find you when they wrap up for the night?
The favourite part of Dance For Abilities for me is the opportunity to see how many people we make happy through what we do. We do a lot of events, but not many events can match the feeling we get out of doing DFA. Some of the feedback that we have had from the carers of the attendees For us that is a great feeling to be making a difference for people like Rosa our sister across NZ and Australia.
Following these events we are all exhausted, so normally we pack down the event and head home for a whiskey. 😉
How can people or businesses get involved to support Dance for Abilities?
Dance For Abilities is a non-profit organisation so we rely on donations to make it happen. If you would like to donate please do here.
We are looking for sponsors to work with as a lead sponsor to make the events happen. If you would like to be a sponsor please get in touch with us through [email protected] or me personally [email protected]
We are also always looking for prizes to give out on the night, so if you have something you can donate please get in touch.
Lastly, how do those who want to attend get tickets?
Tickets are actually sold out for this event, so they will have to watch the website for the next event likely to be at Ellerslie Racecourse!
Designer Adrian Hailwood at a recent NZFW show fitting with Rosa Hopkirk.