Courageous St Neots dance school pupil set to achieve dream of dancing on stage despite disability

Olivia Humphrey and her dance partner James Walters.

Olivia Humphrey and her dance partner James Walters. - Credit: Archant

It was a dream that almost seemed out of reach for Olivia Humphrey – overcoming her disability to dance in her first full stage show.

But now, the 15-year-old, who is a boarding pupil at Kimbolton School, is preparing to tell the emotive story of her journey to the stage through dance.

A complication at birth caused her to suffer a bleed on the brain, which was followed by a diagnosis of cerebral palsy as a youngster.

It presented itself in various ways, such as if something was on the left side of her body she would reach for it with her right hand, and caused her problems in putting her heel on the floor.

The condition affects the left side of her body, mainly her foot, and has led to her having many operations including botox injections to relax her muscles and procedures to adjust the tendons in her foot.

Olivia said: “I was always different and no one else had it in my school so my parents had to explain to me that I was special.

“The big issue was sport because I couldn’t do the same things, like running.

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“I watch a show called Dance Moms and I wanted to be like them and I convinced my parents – I used the excuse that it was like physiotherapy.”

It was more than a year ago that she first started dancing, but she began regular lessons with Tom Langdale, artistic director at Langdale Dance Arts, about six months ago.

She said: “The deal with my parents was that if I did dance I had to do my physiotherapy every night.

“It gives you new opportunities I wouldn’t have had before. It’s nice to express myself and to be in a place where my disability doesn’t define me.”

It was Tom’s “exciting” lessons and a lot of hard work that have helped her to explore different styles, including dancing a lyrical piece to Latch by Disclosure and a jazz routine to Problem by Ariana Grande featuring Iggy Azalea.

The next step is to take part in her full dance show debut, where she will perform to Thinking Out Loud by Ed Sheeran.

Part of LDA’s show Bodies, the routine is an expression of Olivia’s progression, with plenty of jumps, turns, and lifts with her dance partner James Walters. They will also be accompanied by Raffan Rivers who will sing and play guitar for the performance.

The show will feature 40 performers who all train at LDA and the show celebrates the body and all it can and has accomplished.

Her mum, Barbara, said: “Olivia’s physical transformation has been nothing short of a miracle and we could not be prouder of Olivia and her achievements.

“We also couldn’t be more grateful of Tom and all his hard work in helping our daughter realise her dream - his teaching is outstanding.”

Mr Langdale said: “I wasn’t sure how much I could help Olivia and was naturally fearful of making any promises with regards to her dancing and transferring weight onto her foot, however she was so determined to dance she continued with classes and worked on the exercises I gave her every day.”

Chloe Taylor, dance captain for the show, said: “The whole team were delighted that Olivia would be dancing in the show and we felt so moved we created a production all about the body.

“We inspired Olivia to dance and she has inspired us in turn. It’s going to be such a wonderful celebration of song and dance.”

INFORMATION: LDA classes are held at The Bargroves Centre, Cromwell Road, St Neots. Tickets for Bodies, which will be staged at Sandy Theatre Space, Sandy Sports Centre, on April 26, cost £14 from 07475 659841 or