The results are in! Westfield’s 2020 local heroes have been crowned and among the deserving winners receiving up to $10,000 in funds is a familiar face in the Adelaide arts industry.

Racking up an impressive portfolio over the years, Pep Rigano has danced in studios across the globe including the likes of YouTube famous Millennium Dance Complex.

But it’s Pep’s work on home soil at The Australian Company of Performing Arts that has really created change for minorities in dance.

“Twelve years ago, I established a boys only dance environment and a class that supported and encouraged their development. This has now evolved so much over the years and I really feel I have achieved my goal in re-defining the male dance culture in Adelaide,” he says.

Pep’s genuine compassion for reshaping stereotypes in dance is exactly why the public nominated and voted him Westfield West Lakes 2020 local hero, and Pep has clear sights on where the prize money will be going.

“The past two years I have been going to Auslan classes and have really enjoyed the idea of learning this new language. It came to me that I wanted Deaf and hard of hearing people to have equal opportunity to be able to enjoy dance and the culture associated. I want to create a new community-based initiative and expand the reach further. So, I set out a plan to work specifically with Deaf and hard of hearing people,” he says.

Pep’s latest mission is to create a learning environment that offers equal opportunity for Deaf and hard of hearing people to learn dance in a space that considers all modes of communication required to foster individual’s growth in dance.

The grant from Westfield will specifically go towards continued extensive training in Auslan for Pep as he begins to map out the development of the dance class and starts rolling it out at ACPA.

After the successful establishment of the class, Pep will work with his Auslan teachers to write up the curriculum so it can be distributed to dance schools around South Australia in hopes it will encourage other schools to take the same actions towards inclusive dance environments.

Pep’s vision for change in the dance scene is admirable and he has high hopes to one day have the program nationally accredited, to continue to bridge the gap between Deaf, hard of hearing and hearing communities.

By Jason Kemp