Finding the Balance

Artistic Director Lucy considers the balance inclusion needs to find; between dancers who need translation and dancers who need body specific clarity. Her blog is accompanied by a Q&A with Fin, our Sg2 Apprentice who describes himself as Autistic, and a response from Lily, our access worker for Sg2 who is also a neurodivergent artist.

“Access to communal space and experience is a matter of inclusion in the broadest sense. In my life I repeatedly see people who genuinely want to be inclusive, in their playgrounds, their classrooms, their community group, their theatres or art’s events. But they just miss the mark, they tick all the boxes for making spaces accessible but they’re not truly inclusive. And I’ve begun to recognise that part of that is they’re missing something from their understanding of what a shared or communal space or experience is. It’s can’t simply be a space to be with others, but…”

A sensitive and timely blog from Max at Play Radical. (You can read Max's blog here)

I read Max's article after a session of Seedbed, our teacher training programme, with our trainee teachers on Stopgap’s inclusive approach and it really made sense.

Stopgap’s inclusive approach has always been about how we find balance for a group of different dancers who need different teaching styles to support their learning. We’ve always been proud at how we embrace difference and use it to evolve our practice as teachers and artists. When teaching our trainees IRIS (within Seedbed) we ask the question “how can we be both rigorous and inclusive in our planning, teaching and dancing?”

For the first time on a teacher training course, we had a trainee teacher and artist who yearned for the rigour and was not at all uneasy about the word being used in an inclusive context.

Fin who describes himself as Autistic let the group know that as a dance student he needed body specific teaching, counts and criticism. For a teacher who is thinking about teaching inclusively these might be the last teaching tools they would use.

However for us, considering Fin’s needs and those who have had more formal dance training as well as dancers’ who need open language and or sensory explorations to access dance, this is the kind of creative conundrum we relish. We want to be right in the middle - drawing the parimeters of inclusion towards each other, so we can get close enough to learn from each other.

drawing the parimeters of inclusion towards each other

What considerate facilitators we will be when we can offer clear counts for movement with playful sounds for cues, when we can demonstrate with exactness, body specific movement whilst using perfectly descriptive open language simultaneously. What nurturing dance teachers we will be when we can feel comfortable enough to give fair feedback to all our dancers - whilst finding time to share all the positivity of developing one’s own dance style.

I am so happy Fin is a part of Sg2 our apprentice dance company – he is certainly helping us find the balance.

Sg2 Apprentice dance artist and teacher Fin answered a few questions put to him by Lucy

Q: How do you like to be taught dance?

A: I really like to be taught one to one and in a very direct manner, I like to be critiqued and know exactly what I should be doing

Q: What is it you enjoy about dance and coming to class?

A: I enjoy the physical challenge of dance and the escapism it brings, and class for me is a chance to socialise with my colleagues and discover new ways of movement and develop my technical abilities

Q: What aspects of contemporary dance class do you find challenging and why is this?

A: One thing I find difficult is improvisation. I tend to overthink things despite it being a chance to just move so I end up making it harder for myself. Another thing that I find tough is creation. I don’t feel like my mind works in a way that makes creation easy. I again tend to overthink things but also struggle to think of ways to make my ideas work.

As a neurodivergent artist and access worker for Sg2; Lily shares some thoughts on Lucy’s article…

In his article Max writes ‘You can’t make meaningful connections with other people when you’re not being yourself’ – This rings true for every element of life and certainly applies to dance. You can’t make meaningful connections to others and to yourself as a dancer unless you are able to access and express the way you need to learn and move. This is a reason why I find the way we work in Stopgap so vital; as Lucy say’s, finding balance in a group allows everyone to be themselves. As an inclusive teacher its par for the course that you evolve into a multifaceted dance practitioner able to adapt and combine teaching styles as needed in order to create a communal space that allows everybody the opportunity to be themselves as they learn. As a support and access worker, I’ve understood the true value of this communal space and what it means to people who identify as Autistic. And through supporting Sg2 I’ve been rewarded with valuable insight into the processes involved in creating balance and seeing how powerful it is when you give dancers the opportunity to be who they are. I particularly enjoyed the illustration in Max’s article about the difference between ‘being together’ and ‘being ourselves together’. It perfectly encapsulates how the latter creates a far more interesting and vibrant picture.

Photo by Chris Parkes

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