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New Life Without Limits Blind Aerial Artist

New Life Without Limits Ben Nevis image description is in the body of the post.

New Life Without Limits Blind Aerial Artist

Today’s Woman on the Move, Rachael Storey, is a woman I greatly admire. She’s fierce, tenacious, and totally bad@$$! In “New Life Without Limits Blind Aerial Artist” Rachael shares her journey to acquiring her talent.

Pole performance is something people automatically thought I couldn’t do but I’m actually quite good at it. It’s this feeling that drives me to try a lot of new things in my life.  

~ Rachael Storey

Aerial Arts & Blindness

New Life Without Limits Pole Dancing image description is in the body of the post.
Pole Dancing

Pole had always intrigued me from the moment I discovered it. I love trying and learning new things, and wondered why Pole was seen as such a risky, kinda “trashy” activity. To me it seemed simple and fun, and what’s wrong with trash? The fact that I can’t see made me want to try it all the more. Pole performance is something people automatically thought I couldn’t do but I’m actually quite good at it. It’s this feeling that drives me to try a lot of new things in my life.  

I contacted a few studios but was unsure whether or not I should mention my visual impairment initially. While I was sick of having to hide it I thought it was best to soften the blow. Saying I had more sight then I actually did was a little twisted I know, but it worked. 

Not being allowed to do something because the lack of sight puts people off causes me massive anxiety. So saying I had more sight than I do provides me with personal protection and confidence. Making the initial hurdle smaller at the outset also provided the instructor with more confidence in me. 

Sadly it was always easier for people to make judgments on my capabilities by seeing me in person which sucks. Contacting people by email I could write what I want but they imagine this hypothetical blind person in their head. It’s unfortunate that this generic illusion of what blindness is creates unrealistic expectations or lack of.

Finding Acceptance

New Life Without Limits Ben Nevis Summit Pole Dance image is described in the post.
Ben Nevis Summit Pole Dance

Some studios replied, saying they didn’t have the resources or training to facilitate my ‘needs.’, Others just didn’t bother replying. Luckily I emailed Tempest Dance Studio and because of past experiences, I was careful with my wording. Admittedly this is how most blind and partially sighted people, and those with other disabilities have to approach these situations. 

Originally I asked Mandy if it was possible to try a one-to-one class with my disability. Honestly, her reply meant everything to me. I think she said something along the lines of “you can always just come in and try and see how it goes.” Until you experience pushbacks because of your disabilities you aren’t able to understand how important that sentence was to me.  

In my first class, we were unsure of each other and how I’d learn the technical aspects of pole performance. Things like how fast I’d be able to learn the movements, and how Mandy should execute her teaching methods. We started off small working each other out, testing abilities, strengths, speeds of teaching and learning movements. 

I felt comfortable. Comfortable enough to go back and increase that confidence with my instructor, just as I suspect she did as well. As a worrier, I thought Mandy might have seen how rubbish I was and decided it was too risky to take me on as a student. So I was shocked when she asked if she could proudly post our first day of progress on her business page! I was so happy that she’d taken the chance, adapt her teaching and wanted to share that with everyone else. 

Sharing The Journey To Benefit Others

Our confidence grew as teacher and student and we shared our progress with the rest of Team Tempest. I wondered why this couldn’t happen for other instructors and students. Why was I full of anxiety when I first began my journey into learning pole performing? I could use what Mandy and I had experienced and put it to good use. Together we broke down barriers and were the perfect example of unlimited expectation. Going forward I wanted our experience to set the precedent for anyone else as curious and as adventurous as myself. Don’t Look Down was created because of my journey.

Pole and aerial is my safe haven! I don’t have to lie about who I am and it’s made me socially and body confident. Confidence in these two areas I never thought I would ever truly achieve. Pole gives me the opportunity, confidence and the space to explore what I can do. Pushing my body to the limits, creatively performing and creating characters for routines. 

For me, Pole has filled an emptiness created by blindness. I don’t get hung up on not being able to see myself in the mirror because I can move and feel my body. Rather than being bothered about my body’s superficial appearance.        

New Life Without Limits Blind Aerial Artist Featured Image Description:

A powerful shot was taken by Paul Miller during Rachael & team’s descent of Ben Nevis in April of this year. 
The photo captures the difficulty of the path, how the basic sighted guide works, and their communication while navigating. In Rachael’s words: “This is just one of the hundreds of photo’s and clips by Paul that expresses the normality of living with sight loss. It’s not overly exaggerated or fake, it’s a realistic view of invisible disability and we’re excited to include it in the gallery of our project.

Additional Images:

  • In this photo, Rachael is Pole Dancing. She is in an upside-down position and the strength it takes to hold herself is clearly demonstrated here.
  • Photo described by Rachael: “Despite the dreadful weather, I made it to the summit of Ben Nevis on Saturday! It was wet, we had no grip and we were in full kit but we managed to pole dance in the whiteout like pure machines. I couldn’t have made it to the top without the outstanding support, patience & understanding of the entire team who were with me all the way & back.”

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