Strictly Come Dancing professional, Giovanni Pernice, recently surprised an East Lancashire charity by paying a visit and teaching them some moves.

The Strictly 2021 champion visited Accrington-based DanceSyndrome, an inclusive dance charity based which aims to provide new and exciting opportunities for people who may otherwise be excluded from mainstream dance.

The team were attending a special rehearsal in Plungington Community Centre, Preston, which was being filmed for the Channel 4 lifestyle show Steph's Packed Lunch.

They had just returned to the session after lunch when they got a big surprise when Giovanni walked into their session.

Lancashire Telegraph: Jen Blackwell with Giovanni PerniceJen Blackwell with Giovanni Pernice

Giovanni, who won the latest series of Strictly with deaf partner Rose Ayling-Ellis, watched enthusiastically while the DanceSyndrome Team demonstrated the way an inclusive dance session works and then joined in with some dance activities.

He demonstrated some moves before the team broke off into small groups and devised performance pieces based on Giovanni's movements.

They then shared their performances with friends and family at the end of the session.

Dance Leaders John Burrow and Jodie Turner also got the chance to be interviewed by Giovanni on camera.


Behind the scenes: When DanceSyndrome met Giovanni Pernice. Credit: YouTube/DanceSyndrome

Speaking after the session, DanceSyndrome Artistic Director Sophie Tickle said: "We're so grateful to the Steph's Packed Lunch team for coming to meet us to find out what DanceSyndrome is all about.

“We want to say a huge "thank you" to Giovanni for taking time out of his busy schedule to surprise our dancers and for joining in with us and learning more about inclusive dance with so much passion.

“We all left the dance space feeling energised and inspired and everyone is really excited about being on TV!"

Lancashire Telegraph: Giovanni Pernice teaching DanceSyndrome members some dance movesGiovanni Pernice teaching DanceSyndrome members some dance moves

Giovanni said: “There is no greater feeling of liberation than being on the dancefloor – but for some people it can feel like a scary place, especially if you live with a disability.

“I have loved meeting everyone [at DanceSyndrome] today.

“Together, they show that whatever your ability, anyone can and should share their passion for dancing.”

DanceSyndrome is a multi-award-winning dance charity that was founded by Jen Blackwell, who happens to have Down's syndrome.

The charity was formed because Jen found it difficult to find opportunities in community dance that were accessible to people with learning disabilities.

DanceSyndrome's ethos is that disability should never be a barrier to following your dreams.

All DanceSyndrome sessions are disability led, with people with learning disabilities taking visible Dance Leader roles to inspire people to see what can be achieved when we all become more inclusive.

Lancashire Telegraph: Giovanni Pernice teaching DanceSyndrome dance movesGiovanni Pernice teaching DanceSyndrome dance moves

DanceSyndrome was recently awarded funding from The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK.

The charity received almost £180,000 to continue its inspirational work to use dance as a medium to empower and make positive changes for people living with learning difficulties.

You can watch the Accrington charity dance group on Steph’s Packed Lunch by catching up on All 4.