Never Stop Learning

The impact of Home Practice

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We recently launched a fifth and final series of Home Practice, our self-guided programme of online inclusive contemporary dance classes and workshops. This final series centres around a concept that is integral to everyone at Stopgap: ‘inclusion elevates everyone’. You can join us for these classes here.

Home Practice has helped support us and our communities through some extremely challenging and unprecedented times during the pandemic. In this blog, Communications Manager, Hollie Park catches up with Rehearsal Director and Home Practice Teacher, Amy Butler and Content and Access Artist, Lily Norton to reflect on the project, looking at some of the processes we developed, the impact it has had on how we create accessible online experiences, and we discover what we have learned on both an individual and organisational level.

Taken during a Home Practice session. Senior Dance Artist and Teacher, Christian Brinklow dances in the studio.

Taken during a Home Practice session. Senior Dance Artist and Teacher, Christian Brinklow dances in studio. Weight tipped completely over one leg, Christian leans to the side and back with one hand braced on a knee and the other reaching back over his head as he gazes at the ceiling.

The Beginnings of Home Practice…

Home Practice was born from a need to sustain our dance practice and stay connected as a company during the Covid-19 pandemic. When the UK first entered lockdown in March 2020 classes were unable to take place in studios, so like many others at the time, we moved online. 

Initially meeting on Zoom, we soon created a Facebook group in which we could go live and share sessions with our company and wider community. Over the summer of 2020 teachers shared classes from their living rooms; led inclusive yoga practice from their gardens; repertoire from productions, fitness and Pilates from their kitchens, bedrooms and most memorably with a backdrop of glorious Norwegian countryside. 

Delve further into the beginnings of Home Practice by checking out links at the end of this blog. 

  • ‘I got a great deal from it. Thank you for the generosity of sharing Stopgap. Thoughts with you at this time.'

  • ‘Thank you, just what I needed on this lockdown Monday.’

  • ‘This was my first Stopgap Class. I watched from the US. I loved it! Thank you. The overlap of music language and movement was very rich and interesting.’

  • ‘Thank you, Stopgap ... I have been to a few classes over the last couple of weeks and am super inspired by the quality, the variety, and the wise teaching.'

This encouraging feedback, and the growth of our Facebook group, demonstrated how valuable the digital dance classes had become. We had the time to reflect on the needs of dancers who may face a multitude of barriers in accessing mainstream dance opportunities, and in response, designed Home Practice to be a valuable, accessible tool for those looking to develop and dig deeper into their dance practice.

What started out as a one-year commitment to creating and sharing sessions, developed into a long-term project, with five series and nearly 100 classes. 

A black-and-white photo taken during Home Practice filming

A black-and-white photo taken during Home Practice filming. Blurred in the background, Senior Dance Artist Hannah Sampson stands with hands clasped. In the foreground the filming equipment dominates the frame and the image of Hannah is duplicated on the camera screen.

Behind the screen

Embrace individual creativity for diverse outputs. To make a cohesive programme of classes, we started examining our own practice. This self-reflection had a lasting impact on Rehearsal Director and Teacher, Amy Butler, who now approaches aspects of her teaching in “a gentler way”, she reflected “it’s been a beautiful opportunity for me to relook at what I know. Refine what I think I know, and research things that I’m interested in.”

As the project evolved, each season was conceptualised over several research days, a theme for the series was set and discussions around each class were directed by teachers’ own interests. Rather than limiting ideas, Amy found this restriction actually gave more freedom for creativity, setting her on a research journey with a combination of approaches: “sometimes a bit of reading, sometimes research with practitioners, sometimes things from my past”, culminating in a fairly set idea to share with the rest of the team. Each teacher had such different takes on the themes, resulting in a series of wonderfully diverse classes. 

The best way to develop a session is to share it. The research days allowed teachers to workshop their ideas; sharing their classes, offering detailed feedback, and discussing what supporting resources they would like to use, such as reference videos, another dancer performing a phrase or exercise, or diagrams and images. The cycle continued, allowing the sessions to develop, with a final opportunity to teach the class before it was filmed.

A dancer during a Home Practice research day, surrounded by idea generating objects

Kneeling on a wooden dance floor, Rehearsal Director and Home Practice Teacher, Amy Butler writes in her notebook. Scattered around her are bowls, sticks and rulers - mechanisms for idea creation and play during a research day.


Don’t rely on the tried and tested, never stop learning. For the autumn 2022 season ‘Dancing Bodies’, Tom Goodwin led a day of explorations around experiential anatomy. During this, questions emerged around how we make sessions focussed on anatomy inclusive, particularly around processes like breathing and sensing, which for many are experienced differently. This highlighted that even with our many years of combined inclusive teaching experience, there is still a lot to learn, that we should never stop pushing ourselves to make our work as accessible as possible. 

Another strand of research and development was through consulting an access group. We gathered disabled dancers and practitioners to take part in some Home Practice sessions and asked questions around their experience of the class and its accessibility – their responses directly informed how we approached the following seasons. 

Content & Access Artist Lily, who was part of the Home Practice team, shares some learnings from these access group discussions…

“Working with our access group on Home Practice gave us invaluable feedback on what we could do to improve the accessibility of sessions. One of our key learnings was that we couldn’t seek to make every episode accessible to everyone, some formats of classes lent themselves more to certain access needs. For example, audio classes were preferable for blind and visually impaired dancers, as they didn’t involve any visual component at all to understand the class. For Deaf dancers, in classes with lots of talking it’s tiring to follow the captions for a long time, so classes that offered a short explanation and then lots of time moving or following the teacher were preferable. We then ensured within seasons we had a variety of session formats.” 

Take a look from the outside. In terms of our delivery, it was interesting to hear from external perspectives. As a collective of artists working together regularly, some for many years, the Stopgap team have a high level of familiarity. Through our shared experiences and work within inclusive dance, we have developed a lot of inclusive language. The feedback highlighted that we were using an internal terminology of sorts, which could be confusing in a digital context. Lily noted “if it were an in-person class, you can take that time to explain what something means to new dancers, but working online you don’t get that exchange, so we really had to ensure we considered our language and included any explanations to specific terms.”

A still from the class 'Move Like Water'. A male teacher dances in the centre of the studio. In the foreground a BSL interpreter gestures. The video captions are displayed at the bottom centre.

A still from 'Move Like Water' Home Practice session. Teacher Tom Goodwin, is in the centre of the studio, standing on one leg with the other resting gently on the floor and his arms bent and raised toward him at shoulder height. The BSL interpreter on the left foreground has shoulders slightly raised, hands in front, one higher than the other and palms up. The video captions are displayed bottom centre and read 'And perhaps we can also start to bring in the images of water'.


Small changes can have a snowball effect. The access group’s feedback also informed how we set up and edited the classes, from filming environments to length of class, to how the captions were displayed. A lot of these findings have spread out from Home Practice to encompass the company’s communications on a wider scale. As our understanding around access has expanded it has become more integral to our ethos and work. Even now, we are in research and development for a new production where access is a central focus and driving force. 

Time and time again. It might be easy to underestimate the amount of time needed to create a single online class. However, when we look at the extensive preparations that went into each session even before recording, it is apparent how vital time and space for full investigation has been. Then consider the time needed for recording, editing and reviewing, plus any extra access treatments such as captioning, especially if this is being done externally, or BSL interpretation like in ‘Move like air’, it has been key to factor in every aspect in our scheduling. This post-production time for access has become embedded in our work for all online outputs.

Reaching new audiences. The very nature of moving our classes from the studio to a free online resource meant that there was potential to reach new and wider audiences. Removing access and geographical barriers, combined with the flexibility of pre-recorded material has allowed people all over the world to enjoy Home Practice at any time that suits them. Our most viewed session ‘Finding your flow’ has over 34,000 views, with people tuning in from countries such as the United States, India, Germany, and Sweden.

  • 'I am doing this practice quite often and every time I am getting something different out of it. Thanks for your work.'

  • 'Thank you!!!! What a find! A sensitive and fun "workout" which makes sense and nourishes your body and spirit.'

  • 'After following this class, I feel simultaneously calmed and energized. Thank you for making inclusive content!'

  • 'Gracias! Me has enseñado mejor que en las propias clases on line de gaga… wow… thanks.' (Thank you! You have taught me better than in gaga's own online classes... wow... thanks)

  • 'As someone who hasn't danced in over 5 years due to an injury, I must say I thoroughly enjoyed this practice! I have really missed moving and expressing myself that way, and this helped me reconnect with that energy within myself. Thank you for your work, please keep it coming!'

Whether a class has received hundreds or thousands of views, we’ve loved hearing from people who have joined us, and seeing evidence that our work has reached new people who might never have experienced inclusive dance before, let alone heard of Stopgap.

Although our journey with Home Practice is ending, the classes remain available on our YouTube channel for you to delve into at your convenience, follow your interests and support your learning at home in an environment free of pressure. If you are looking for somewhere to start, Amy likes to revisit her ‘Finding Mobility’ class and also recommends taking an audio class (why not try one of Tom’s such as ‘Horizons‘) to spend some time “focussing on the inside and outside of your body.”

Delve further into the beginnings of Home Practice