Nicole Thomson, the artistic director of the Anjali Dance Company, tells of a once-in-a- lifetime opportunity for the group

Anjali Dance Company is a national touring company based in Banbury that works with dancers with learning disabilities. It came from an integrated dance class that I started in the mid 1990s which was open to learning-disabled people, who were then not thought to have the capability to learn new skills or do creative things.

But I found them enthusiastic and creative and was surprised and impressed by the talents and abilities they displayed. They had a distinct style of their own which I thought was bold, honest and unselfconscious and they inspired me to start a dance company just for them.

When I started Anjali, I made it my mission to show that people with learning disabilities have talents and creative abilities too – they can be wildly inventive (sometimes their creativity is completely surreal) – and that they deserve to be taken seriously and treated with respect. They are able to learn new skills and produce inspiring, professional-quality dance.

For 20 years they have been doing that very successfully, confounding all expectations and changing everyone’s perceptions about what dance is and who can do it. Over the years the company has performed all over the UK, including the Royal Festival Hall and the Royal Opera House, and in Berlin, Lisbon and Madrid. Its work has been well reviewed and highly praised.

We also have a flourishing youth dance company, Young Anjali. On Saturday evening, Anjali’s dancers will be performing with the Banbury Symphony Orchestra at the premiere of a Symphony of Dances, by local composer Nick Planas, in several short pieces which they have developed with our choreographer Aya Kobayashi.

We are delighted to have been offered this rare and wonderful opportunity to perform with a 60-piece orchestra: it’s a huge privilege and a great challenge for the dancers. They are very excited and are looking forward to it.

This may be the first time this has been done anywhere in the world. A once-in-a- lifetime opportunity.

The concert will be at St Mary’s Church, Banbury, on June 27 at 7.30pm.

Tickets on 01295 251909 or from Banbury Town Hall.