Dis-COURSE Dance and Disablility

Iain, Rosie and Heidi went to the Dis-Course event, held on 19 September at the Riverfront in Newport.  It was presented by the wonderful special guest and dynamic ‘provocateur’, Caroline Bowditch, along with Darius James of Ballet Cymru and Helen Crocker of GDance. The event included two presentations to get us thinking about our current practice and future possibilities in dance and disability.  Darius challenged us to re-think our perceptions of ballet from an inaccessible, elite art form to ‘just another dance style’.  As such – why shouldn’t it be accessible?  Ballet Cymru traces its heritage from the heady days of the Ballets Russes which celebrated collaboration and individuality.  Surely dance and disability is about individuality and a person-centred approach to creativity in dance.  Darius has always sought to work with ballet dancers who express individuality as opposed to conforming to a particular mould.

Helen Crocker of GDance (Gloucestershire Dance) has partnered up with Ballet Cymru to produce Stuck in the Mud.  This is a site specific dance journey with a ‘stunning company of disabled and non-disabled professional dancers, musicians, and local community performers who bring historic surroundings to life’.  It has been performed at Hidcote Manor Gardens and Blackfriars in Gloucestershire and is due to come to Newport Victorian Market in November (12th and 13th).  GDance acting as a producer developed the concept and model and played the roles of liaising, recruiting and organising.  We were treated to a brief film giving a snapshot of the performance demonstrating just what can be achieved.

Caroline Bowditch then challenged us to come up with and then consider key questions in relation to dance and disability.  These centred around: progression routes for disabled dancers i.e. access to training and a professional career in dance;  the place for inclusive and discreet groups; joint responsibility for the progression of this work on local and national levels; addressing gaps in provision; developing partnerships, and what next for disability dance in Wales ….

The hope is that Stuck in the Mud can tour around Wales, hosted by different community dance organisations and sites as it travels the country.  From this day Powys Dance have started to develop ideas on how we can bring some of our diverse groups together to dance and possibly perform e.g. Powys Youth Dance Company could work with members of Me Myself Us, Friday Dancing could work with Dancercise.

We met lots of people from other organisations and were able to catch up with old friends and put names to faces.  A range of delegates included representation from Hijinx, Dance Blast, Cardiff Metropolitan University, Rubicon Dance, Sherman Theatre, Disability Arts Cymru, National Dance Company Wales and Bombastic.  Watch this space as Ballet Cymru may be resident in Powys at some point over the next three years partnering with us to offer you some exciting new possibilities.  A good day out and an opportunity to build new partnerships and think about new ideas.