Stopgap’s devising process is based on key inclusive methods that the company has collectively developed. In 2012, the company moved away from commissioning choreographers to create dance work for them and began to lay the foundations for their own inclusive choreography.

Stopgap began as a community company in Surrey in 1995 led by dancer and founding Artistic Director Vicki Balaam.

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

Under Vicki’s direction Stopgap became the first touring dance company to employ learning-disabled dancers, physically-disabled dancers and non-disabled dancers.

In 2012 Vicki encouraged dancer and assistant artistic director Lucy Bennett to take the lead and realise the artists’ ambitions to make their first full-length dance production as a collective with Lucy as the director.

The key methods outlined below took root early in Stopgap’s first creative process as an ensemble in the production Artificial Things in 2013.

“I often hear other directors talking about going into the ‘unknown’. For me I always have a clear sense of knowing where we need to get to – I just can’t always read the map or remember the way. As a team we uncover the path, build the bridges and sustain one another to get there”.

The methods below not only support approaches to inclusive dance but for Stopgap, they are essential in supporting an inclusive culture within the process, rehearsals and when on tour.

Hannah and Nadenh in a duet.

[Image Description: A black and whitephotograph from the studio of a duet between Hannah and Nadenh. In his wheelchair, Nadenh leans down to cradle Hannah’s head as she leans towards back from her seated position on the floor. Hannah is a learning disabled dancer, she’s white with blonde hair, she has her eyes closed. Nadenh is Cambodian, he has light brown skin, he has black hair tied up and a half shaved head, he has a tattoo of a tiger on his left arm. They are in a wooden panelled studio, behind them lots of dancers in wheelchairs observe the scene.]


#Translation #Reinvention

Stopgap’s method of translation has been used in every production since Artificial Things. Translation is the skill of finding a correlative version of a movement by someone who has a different physicality to you. When translating it is vital that the non-disabled dancer does not assume that the disabled dancer is imitating traditional dance steps. As a team the dancers break down the translating process by observing the effort, spine, focus, direction, rhythm and detail. The process can then move between different bodies until the director finds a version, or collection of versions, that feels like a united physical language.

As a method, translation has given Stopgap a unique dance style reinventing traditional dance languages, and which informs their goal to empower non-traditional dance movement.

In the studio, Dave Toole flies in the air, suspended beneath the arms on someones legs.

[Image Description: A black and white photo from an Artificial Things rehearsal, disabled dancer Dave Toole is suspended flying in the air, held up by someones legs underneath his arm pits. Others sit and observe the scene.]


#Blend #Revelation #Fiction #LivedExperience

Diversity is the life blood of the devising process. Different perspectives, reference points and life experience are essential in driving a process that will deliver relevant, rich narratives that new dance audiences can connect with.

We start the process with the simple task of observation and listening. We try on each other’s movement styles through simple improvisation games and we spend afternoons listening to each other’s stories. We share in and acknowledge our similarities and differences.

It is important to Stopgap that within the devising group there are dancers who are open, loud and fearless alongside dancers who are calm, quiet and tentative. We seek out artists who are curious, patient and generous but we also value artists who are ambitious and critical. As a group we learn from each other’s different approaches to dance, gradually assimilating with one another’s ways and finding a balance or a blend that enables a productive process. Not all of the artists that are in the devising process end up in the touring production. Our productions are not the result of one person’s lived experience. They are a blend of many people’s lived experiences, interpretations and fiction.

Meri curls around a television.

[Image Description: A black and white photograph from The Enormous Room rehearsals. Meri, a tall white standing dancer curls herself around an old television. Blurred in the background, Dave Toole sits glumly in an armchair.]


#CreativeTasks #Film #Responsiveness #ContactDance

At the start of the process dancers have the space to share whatever they feel they would like to bring at that moment.

As the process develops, we devise creative exercises or improvisation tasks that relate to a scene or theme to ensure that the movement can progress the story. We work with exploring limitation in order to refine our ability to invent original movement material.

Contact improvisation features within the choreography and as a company we explore different ways touch can suggest a narrative.

When a task or improvisation has been absorbed by the dancers, we film long improvisations and the director edits together movement films for the team to learn. We learn from each other and our material as the narratives and themes drive the process.

Amy and David entwined in contat dance.

[Image Description: A black and white photograph of Amy and David entwined in contact. David rests his head on Amy's shoulder, all their arms extend outwards.]