From community beginnings to world-renowned pioneers of inclusive choreography and teaching, delve into the history of Stopgap...

1995- 1999

Stopgap is born

Woking Dance Festival and Guildford Borough Council set up a community Dance project led by Dave Toole and Kuldip Singh-Barmi (Candoco dance Company). It brings together disabled and non-disabled members of the community, who work towards a performance for the first edition of Woking Dance Festival

Black and white archive images.

Left: Black and white photo of an excited group posing for the camera, Stopgap's Founding Members. Five people using wheelchairs in the front row, and seven people standing behind. Some folks have arms raised, some reach to the camera, all are smiling.

Right: Dave Toole and Vicki Balaam dancing together on the floor.


Dave Toole continues to mentor Vicki Balaam

Chris Pavia joins as an apprentice after Vicki meets him through a workshop, she teaches at his school The Ridgeway in Farnham


Sue Smith creates Creeper, which is performed at The South Bank Centre London, marking Stopgap’s transition from a community project to emerging company. Both Vicki Balaam and Chris Pavia perform in the cast

2001 – 2003

Stopgap is established as a professional ‘integrated’ dance company under the direction of Vicki Balaam

Stopgap becomes the only dance company in the UK to employ a learning disabled dancer Chris Pavia and a wheelchair dancer Laura Jones alongside non-disabled dancers Lucy Bennett and Dan Watson

Vicki says: “I wanted Stopgap to be a working, living example of how society should and could be, valuing the richness that comes from diversity”

Black and white production photos of Stopgap dancers.

Black and white productions photos from Dancers Syndrome and Corpus. Left: From left to right Chris Pavia, Dan Watson, Laura Jones and Lucy Bennett connect in a line, interlinking hands and arms the line slopes in height from Chris standing to Lucy in a wide side lunge. Right: Lucy, Chris, Laura and Dan intertwined through contact dance, dressed in loud, vibrant party outfits.

2003 – 2009

Stopgap continue to work with emerging and established choreographers to create original inclusive dance

Stopgap collaborates with choreographers Maxine Doyle, Adam Benjamin, Filip Van Huffel, Bettina Strickler, Hofesh Shechter, Rob Tannion, Nathalie Purnette, Lois Taylor, Maxine Doyle, Thomas Noone and Gary Clarke alongside in-house choreographers Dan Watson, Lucy Bennett and Chris Pavia

The company tours throughout the UK, Scandinavia, Europe and Japan. Alongside leading educational projects in Asia, Scotland, Ireland, Turkey and Eastern Europe

“A wide-open and literally far-reaching mind-set has helped send a handful of supremely eager dancers vaulting from England’s rural touring circuit to Europe, the United States, the Far East and back again.” – Donald Hutera, The Times

Black and white rehearsal and performance photos.

Black and white archive images. Left: Laura Jones reaching up to wrap her arms around Chris Pavia’s neck as he leans forward towards her. Centre: Laura and Sophie Stanley on stage, facing away from one another Sophie arches in a backbend to reach for Laura’s outstretched arm as she leans preparing a hand on wheel. Right: Laura and Sophie during rehearsals, Sophie stands close behind and Laura leans her head back into her.


Lucy Bennett sets up Stopgap’s first Youth Company and future Sg2 apprentices Kat Ball and Hannah Sampson are a part of the group at different times


Stopgap becomes resident dance company at The Farnham Maltings 


Stopgap Dance Company are awarded core funding from The Arts Council


Dave Toole, Sophie Stanley, David Willdridge join the Artistic Team and Lucy Bennett becomes Assistant Artistic Director

2012- 2013

Stopgap focus on creating their own dance work under new Artistic Director Lucy Bennett

Stopgap becomes the first British company of disabled and non-disabled dancers to create their own dance work for national and international touring

Stopgap dancers Dave Toole and Laura Jones feature in The Paralympic Opening Ceremonies and Stopgap is commissioned by the Cultural Olympiad to create SPUN Productions, an Outdoor Dance Production

Stopgap are supported to set up their first apprentice company Sg2, inspired by Chris Pavia’s journey and Company Founding Director Vicki Balaam becomes Chair of Stopgap’s Board of Directors

Lucy Says: “With our work, we seek to offer a window into a parallel world where human interdependence, strength and vulnerability play out with poetic realism”

Black and white rehearsal photos of dancers.

Black and white rehearsal images. Left: David Willdrige rests his head on Amy Butlers shoulder, their arms reach out and link. Centre: Hannah Sampson bares her throat, head lifted, hands splayed and reaching from chest. Right: Dave Toole sits on top of Amy who lays on the floor.


Stopgap’s apprentice company Sg2 is established. Siobhan Hayes joins the Artistic Team to guide apprentices Nadenh Poan and Hannah Sampson with support from dancer and access worker Tomos Young

Amy Butler joins the Artistic Team

Artificial Things is collectively devised under Lucy’s direction and tours nationally and internationally

2014 – 2016

Stopgap become renowned for creating exuberant and entertaining Outdoor Dance Productions

Chris Pavia becomes resident choreographer and with the support of the artistic team creates his first touring work of outdoor dance: The Awakening. Lucy collaborates with Dave Toole to create outdoor dance production Bill and Bobby, and the full company plus fifty community dancers join together in the large outdoor dance production The Seafarers in front of HMS Victory in Portsmouth

‘A performance that recalls the stylish partnership of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and borrows from 1930s films with a magpie glee’ – Lyn Gardner on Bill & Bobby, The Guardian

‘★★★★ A lyrical ode to the ocean’ – Sanjoy Roy on The Seafarers, The Guardian

Black and white images of The Awakening, Bill and Bobby, and The Seafarers.

Black and white photos of Stopgap’s outdoor dance productions. Left: A close-up to Nadenh Poan in The Awakening, staring down the camera and splaying a fingerless-gloved hand in front of his face. Centre: Amy standing on the edge of a bathtub as Dave looks up at her bewildered, the pair are performing Bill and Bobby. Right: Siobhan gliding whilst standing on someones shoulders, she looks stoic against a backdrop of ship masts and rigging during The Seafarers.


The Enormous Room is created under Lucy’s direction. Christian Brinklow, Meri Checca, Nadenh Poan and Hannah Sampson join the artistic team. The Enormous Room Tours throughout Europe, Asia and the UK

Artificial Things becomes one of six productions studied as part of AQA’s GCSE Dance Anthology

Laura Jones becomes Artistic Director (Maternity Cover)


Lucy collaborates with director Sophie Fiennes to reimagine Artificial Things as a dance film with the original cast

Black and white images of The Enormous Room and Artificial Things rehearsals.

Black and white photos. Left: During The Enormous Room rehearsals; Meri Checca longingly hugs an old boxy television, Dave looks melancholy as he sits in a chair in the background. Right: Production photo from Artificial Things. Dave Toole perches atop a collapsed wheelchair seat and looks down at Laura as she lays on her side on the floor.

2018 – 2020

Stopgap find new ways to share their creative learning experience and inclusive choreographic methods with the wider world

IRIS Stopgap’s Inclusive Dance Syllabus for young people is established and celebrated. Laura Jones becomes Head of Talent Development and works alongside Community Engagement Officer Cherie Brennan to establish Stopgap’s network of youth and adult dance groups and IRIS trained Inclusive Dance Teachers

Sg2’s second cohort of apprentices join, and Laura leads Stopgap’s first in depth teacher training programme Seedbed. Stopgap continue to lead creative learning residencies and teacher training around the world in person and online

Black and white photos of young dancers and Sg2 apprentices during class and performance.

Black and white rehearsal and workshop photos. Left: Cherie Brennan and a young disabled dancer stand smiling and clap their hands. Centre: Sg2 apprentices Abbie Thompson and Sander Verbeek dance together in the studio, Abbie skims across the floor and Sander mirrors an arched arm, other hand prepared on left wheel of chair. Right: A young disabled dancer looks upwards, reaching one hand she looks calmly towards it.


The Seafarers is remounted in Great Yarmouth with Siobhan Hayes as Assistant Choreographer. Supported by and premiering at Norfolk and Norwich Festival

Laura Jones and Siobhan Hayes become Co Artistic Directors (Maternity Cover)

Chris Pavia choreographs The Journey Between


Laura Jones becomes Head of Talent Development

Sg2’s second cohort joins including Kat Ball, Sander Verbeek, Abbie Thompson and Fin James

Artificial Things wins ‘Best Screen Choreography’ for Dancescreen

FROCK is choreographed by Lucy Bennett, with Jannick Moth, Annie Rose Grantham, Alice Shepperson and KJ Mortimer joining the artistic team

Cherie Brennan becomes Stopgap’s Community Engagement Artist

2020- 2021

Stopgap say a painful goodbye to their mentor, advocate and inspiration Dave Toole OBE

Lucy says: “Dave was comfortable about being an ‘inspiration’, he knew it was not because he was disabled, he knew it was because he was doing a job he was born to do. From the moment the lights came up, to the moment they faded to black, he held the audience in the palms of his giant hands”

A black and white image of Dave in the Enormous Room, he sits in a cupboard.

Black and white photo of Dave Toole OBE on the set of The Enormous Room. Dave is white, with short dark hair and beard, he’s a disabled dance artist. He sits inside a wooden cabinet with a lace curtain behind, clutching a mug in his remarkable hands. He rests on his forearms, a knowing look in his eyes inviting us into his homely cupboard, his onstage world. To his right sits a tea jar and cream kettle. Dave wears a Led Zeppelin t-shirt over a long-sleeved top.


Stopgap launch online inclusive dance programme ‘Home Practice’ on YouTube


Chris Pavia becomes resident artist at Watts Gallery creating three dance films under the title ‘Beyond the Waves’

Lily Norton becomes Stopgap’s first Content and Access Artist

Stopgap is commissioned to create an Album of Audio Choreography ‘Dance Tapes’, with disabled dance artists from around the world

2021 – Present

Stopgap continue to learn about and share their inclusive practice whilst advocating for better disabled representation on the UK’s stages

Post pandemic the company has a heightened awareness around access for disabled people both on stage and off and are determined to support the next generation of disabled artists and leaders to continue Stopgap’s journey

Executive Producer Sho says: “If we were serious about making real change, shouldn’t everyone working in Dance have a short and long-term plan for disabled representation? It’s no longer enough for only inclusive companies like Stopgap to support disabled talent

We are ready and willing to help make that change”

Black and white shots of rehearsals and performance.
Black and white images of rehearsals and performances