Siobhan and Nadenh return from Myanmar

Siobhan reflects on her recent visit to Myanmar together with Nadenh Poan...

Now that I am back in the UK, my time in Myanmar already seems like a lifetime ago. It’s a challenge to process such a whirlwind visit especially when the busy-ness of Christmas takes over as soon as you’re back on home soil, but I thought it would be nice to share some of the things Nadenh and I got up to whilst we were there.

It was a great privilege to work with such a wonderful group of dancers. They were eager to learn and always had a smile on their faces no matter how tired they were. It was also humbling for me, as a standing dancer, to be in a minority in the studio (a position which is rare as a non-disabled dancer) and a useful opportunity to experience things from another person’s perspective.

Nadenh and I created a new piece on the dancers in the 5 days we had in the studio with them and introduced them to Stopgap’s creative, dancer led choreographic process. This was a completely new experience to the MILI (Myanmar Independent Living Initiative) dancers and to their credit they embraced everything we asked them to do. My favourite task to watch them do was when we asked them to ‘mash-up’ a phrase Nadenh had taught them. This was towards the end of the process and to watch the dancers create and move in a way that was so alien to them at the beginning but was now slowly seeping into their bodies was brilliant. Two dancers especially created exciting and dynamic solos, which demonstrated the journey that they had gone on throughout their time with us - it was amazing to see.

At the end of our visit we took part in the 3rd ‘Festival of Disabled Arts’ and performed our duet Crossing Borders. It was great to perform in front of 2000 people and felt a little like an episode of Strictly Come Dancing as the audience clapped whenever they particularly liked something. The MILI dancers also performed our choreography and they did a brilliant job, I hope they enjoyed it as much as we did.

Overall it was a brilliant experience, a huge thank you to MILI and the British Council in Myanmar for inviting us to come and share our work, I hope we are able to visit again in the future.

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