IRIS is an inclusive dance syllabus that gives teachers a framework to develop the disabled dancers of tomorrow. It is a consolidation of Stopgap’s experience of training professional disabled dancers, and it contains tried and tested methods that the company has been developing since 1995.

IRIS is divided into four levels: Include, Respond, Integrate and Specialise, each having its own set exercises, guidelines and assessments. IRIS will give disabled children and young people the same level of structure, balance and rigour of dance education as their non-disabled peers and provide the opportunity to accumulate skills and experiences necessary for the professional industry.

A graphic illustrating the IRIS progression pathways.

[Image description] A colourful graphic illustrating the progression pathway of IRIS with an upwards arrow. Beginning at the base with Include level, a segmented semi-circle displays the slices of Foundation Dance Skills: Exploration, Contact Dance, Textures and Performance. It leads to Respond level with text, "Tailor Made sessions for the committed dancer" including "getting to know your body, translation skills and bespoke dance technique". Next is Integrate, a small posterized photo of a dancer sits alongisde text "Get the experience of doing dance classes with non-disabled peers". The arrow finishes with "A chance to 'Specialise", and the arrow points to text listing the roles of Artist, Teacher, Choreographer.

IRIS uses a student-centred approach to learning. The syllabus enables teachers to respond to their students’ aspirations, learning styles and physicality by having flexibility within set exercises. Within this flexibility, IRIS encourages dialogue between teachers and students to identify the students’ needs and potential.

Although IRIS is designed with disabled children and young people in mind, its content is suitable for anyone who is pursuing dance seriously.

Stopgap Dance Company will commit to conducting assessments at each level at the student’s own pace of progress.

Stopgap’s online teacher training course Seedbed will develop the teachers’ capabilities to use IRIS, so that they can deliver high quality and progressive dance classes.

Stopgap and its partners have successfully completed a pilot of IRIS in November 2018, with the University of Bedfordshire publishing the evaluation report.

  • "The results of this research project suggest that IRIS is an effective talent development programme for young disabled dancers."

Stopgap would like to thank Paul Hamlyn Foundation for enabling the pilot phase and its evaluation and Artswork, Arts Council England and all the trusts and foundations who enabled us to run our youth companies to trial the syllabus. And thanks to all the teachers and practitioners who have supported us in articulating IRIS so far.