1995–1997: The foundation of Stopgap Dance Company

Stopgap Dance Company started as a community dance project in 1995. It brought together disabled and non-disabled members of the community, who began to work towards a performance for the first edition of Woking Dance Festival in 1997. The choreography was led by University of Surrey graduate and founding Artistic Director Vicki Balaam, who was mentored by Dave Toole and Kuldip Singh-Barmi.

Vicki had a strong belief that each dancer’s unique and individual strengths could be developed, and that these diverse dancers could form an integrated group if they shared their strengths and established a sense of togetherness. This philosophy of integration through collaboration is still at the heart of Stopgap Dance Company.

1997–2006: Development of Stopgap’s unique dance practice, and becoming a key player in the British dance sector

Stopgap’s transition from a community group to a professional company happened gradually between 1997 and 2004, with Chris Pavia joining as an apprentice in 1997, Laura Jones and Dan Watson in 2001, and Lucy Bennett in 2003. These dancers began to establish Stopgap’s unique integrated dance practice under the leadership of Vicki, and, significantly, began contributing their ideas to the wider dance sector.

Stopgap was the first company in the UK to integrate dancers with a learning disability, a physical disability and non-disabled dancers, proving that it was possible to develop dance technique and choreography to a professional level with such diverse dancers. Their efforts were noticed by Arts Council England, and Stopgap became a Regularly Funded Organisation in 2006.

2006–present: Transitioning from using a repertoire model to being a company that creates and tours its own work

Vicki’s and the dancers’ efforts to establish the company’s integrated practice were supported by various visiting choreographers. This ‘repertoire model’ enabled Stopgap to experience different methods of dance making and explore how each could be applied in an integrated context. Through these collaborations, Stopgap continued to refine its unique dance practice and move towards creating its own fully integrated dance works. Lucy Bennett took leadership of this development, creating Chris et Lucy (2005) and Act 3 (2006) as part of Portfolio Collection, which toured nationally and internationally in 2008. She assumed the role of Assistant Artistic Director in 2009 when she also created Tracking, a major outdoor touring work. Under Lucy’s guidance, Stopgap’s ability to create work independently developed momentum and the company produced another major outdoor work, SPUN Productions, in 2011.

Following the success of Lucy’s choreography, Stopgap decided to move away from the repertoire model and assume more control over its artistic expression. In 2012 the company became focused on creating its own dance work under Lucy’s direction, without relying on visiting choreographers. With this step change, Stopgap became the first British company of disabled and non-disabled dancers to create its own dance work for national and international touring.

The company continues to invest in the next generation of integrated dance artists by sharing its expertise with SG2 Company, Youth Company and through other creative learning projects and publications.