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Bust a move

From Brisbane to LA and So You Think You Can Dance? Ali Phillips, Director of Bust a Move Dance shares her experiences of starting the program for young people with a disability and where it has taken them…

Bust a Move Dance (BAMD) is a leading Brisbane dance program for young people with disabilities. Created in 2008 from a volunteering role with a special needs community centre, we now run 14 classes a week in 10 locations and teach over 100 students. 

In the middle of my education degree and with no business experience, BAMD simply started as a hobby with five students. It became clear that this had the potential to be so much more and that there was a real need for this in the Brisbane community. 

Our students LOVE the music, the chance to be themselves and access a social outlet to develop friendships. I push them beyond their comfort zone and many have realised their true potential. I do encounter apprehensive parents and I completely understand their concerns and the protective instinct - but I have belief in my students’ abilities and have witnessed students reaching goals they never thought possible. Through opening themselves up to challenges, we see the increase in their confidence and independence every week. That’s what drives me and my team. 

Persistence has also opened the door for some incredible opportunities. In 2013, BAMD performed at the Special Olympics Asia Pacific Games in Newcastle to an audience of 20,000. It made me wonder what else we could achieve and before I knew it I’d started the campaign to get BAMD to LA for the 2015 Special Olympics World Games. 

After eight months of contact we were given the green light to perform. Through a crowd funding campaign and multiple fundraising events, we raised over $60,000 and flew 60 dancers, parents and friends to LA to showcase our team at the world games. We were given other ‘pinch-me’ opportunities including being filmed for So You Think You Can Dance US. The trip proved that with determination and persistence, anything is possible. 


The success of BAMD comes down to the community’s need for it and our commitment to providing quality teaching, performance opportunities, and a fun, challenging environment. The value and support it has added to the lives of the participants and their families have resulted in rapid growth. I have had to grow too – learning about marketing, finances, business development and people management.

This experience has been rewarding but it has not been an easy road.  Learning how to run a small business simply by doing it has been tough. I’ve learned to ask for help. Part of being a leader is bringing the right people on board to help you with those unfamiliar pieces of your puzzle and to share in the highs and lows. 

My advice for creative start ups? Be patient. Set your standards and expectations. Back yourself. Be your Number 1 fan! If you don’t believe in it, no-one will. 

The future for BAMD and inclusive arts is exciting. We’ll continue to grow and provide a sense of belonging and inclusion to as many as we can. I also hope to facilitate the inclusion of students with disabilities in mainstream dance schools and performance opportunities and even expand internationally. Anything is possible. 

Photo of Ali PhillipsAli has been a dancer since the age of four; been teaching dance since leaving high school; and in 2009 began her own business leveraging skills in dance to create Bust A Move Dance - Brisbane’s first inclusive dance program for teens and young adults with disabilities. 

The vision for BAMD is that people of all abilities feel equal and powerful in the world and that they're provided with an opportunity to express themselves in a comfortable environment. The organisation aims to do this through the vehicle of dance encouraging young people with disabilities to become independent within their own communities and in turn develop their self-confidence. 

Ali takes her skills seriously having completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts majoring in both Dance and Education at the Queensland University of Technology. She believes everybody on earth can dance whether they're trained or not. For this reasons she supports those who aren't traditionally considered 'dancers' by giving them a chance to explore their potential as movers, story tellers, performers, team mates and athletes. 

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