Eilidh is a 19 year old dancer from north Queensferry who has cerebral palsy.
As part of Zoe Bestel and Kate Kyle's double headliner concert, we are thrilled to invite Eilidh in to perform her dance piece 'Survival'. The idea for ‘Survival’ came from flashbacks of her childhood trauma. Eilidh decided to use her experience to create a piece that would help young people like her to speak out against abuse.
"I know how powerless one can feel when they are smiling on the outside but suffering on the inside. In truth, the creation process of 'Survival' was quite healing for me because I felt like I was dancing everything into perspective. By the end of my performance of the piece at the Glad Café this May, I felt as if the chapter about what happened to me was finished. Not erased, but finally finished and I was about to start an exciting new chapter of my life."
At just 19 years old, Eilidh has already achieved so much within her dance career. Exposed to the arts from an early age, Eilidh's passion for dance sparked when seeing a Barrowland Ballet performance at eight years old. However, she thought it was impossible for someone with her body to become a dancer, until she found Paragon M3 after leaving primary school. During her first day at M3, she was shown that wheelchair users could dance and she spent her first three years with the company having fun exploring the idea of dance and moving her body. Everything changed for Eilidh on Sunday November 25th 2018 when she saw Candoco perform the piece 'Life On Mars' during the results show of Strictly Come Dancing. She witnessed two wheelchair users dancing on a table top and doing tricks that didn’t seem physically possible.
"The routine made ripples throughout our entire company but it was so powerful to me that for the first time, I thought I was capable of becoming a professional dancer. "
The following year, Eilidh decided she wanted to take Higher dance when choosing her 5th year subjects, so that she could study her newfound love academically. Unfortunately, Eilidh was told by the SQA that she would not be able to meet the exam criteria and that an examiner would not be able to mark her on musicality, posture, or focus. However, Eilidh has not allowed this ableism to stop her from pursuing her passion. Instead, she enrolled herself in Horizons, the emerging artist mentorship program run by Paragon and created her debut piece, 'Too Good For The SQA'.
Since then, she has travelled to London to work with Caroline Lofthouse and Maya Leeke to be a part of Candoco’s piece “A Door Burst Open And…”, which was part of the Peckham Arts Festival. She was the only artist that was a wheelchair user, and so as well as learning from professional dancers, Eilidh was able to teach them the etiquette of dancing with a wheelchair user. For example, not pushing from the handles, but using interesting body contact to move instead. In September, she began working on the project ‘Proximus’, which was funded by the British Council and involves Paragon, Armonía e Inclusión (an inclusive music organisation in Mexico), DCF in India, and two young dancers in Italy. Her main role in the project is to create a dance piece with another Scottish disabled dancer using the music created by the musicians in India and Mexico. The video is due to be finished by the end of the year and the live version will be completed and ready to perform by spring 2023. So watch this space!
"I hope to be a role model for young people disabled and not, because if the last 11 years have taught me anything, it’s that if you have a dream you should pursue it. Because anything is possible if it’s only dreamed about hard enough."
Since being blown away by 'Survival' during the Paragon: All In Networking Conference held at CatStrand in October, we can't wait to have Eilidh back to perform again! Her performance will take place between Zoe Bestel and Kate Kyle's sets on Saturday the 3rd of December.
Tickets are available here: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/whats-on/new-galloway/catstrand/zoe-bestel-kate-kyle-eilidh-mcgrath/e-baryva