Last Saturday, Sarah Lapp and I finally found the time to start chatting and typing our thoughts around inclusive dance, as Sarah likes to call it.
We have been thinking about writing a post for Dance Hole since September, but it took us a while to figure out the format and what to say. In the meantime, Sarah went to London for three weeks to study dance. When she came back we both knew it was the right time: so much learning occurred for her that we couldnt wait any longer.
Sarah is the co-founder (together with Naomi Brand and Mirae Rosner) of All Bodies Dance. I have had the incredible honour and pleasure of working with them (together with Harmanie Taylor and Rianne Svelnis). When I asked Sarah to write a post together, I proposed Lets talk about Dis, the title of a 2014 Candoco production, but Sarah instead suggested we talk about inclusive dance, for all bodies and for people with all abilities. These are some of the elements that we believe are essential to making dance more accessible and, therefore, inclusive.
It all starts with the space. If you cant enter the space as a dancer (which is different than as a patron, an important distinction) then the space is not accessible. What is (often) missing is questioning the accessibility of a space from the perspective of a performer. Spaces that are accessible for patrons might not have the requirements to make the space accessible for performers (i.e. in terms of backstage or stage). We think its important to keep talking about this aspect of space accessibility, to encourage venues to interrogate how they consider performers accessibility needs, and to make these considerations part of future dialogues when applying for funding opportunities.
Except for All Bodies Dance, there is a lack of specific training for dancers working within integrated dance; especially those who want to become teachers or train in choreography. There are no professional schools with training and opportunities for every-body and every-dancer. For a seated dancer, it is not easy to take traditional dance classes. It is tough to find spaces to learn and study. It is hard to not worry about being different in most dance environments. Perhaps, part of this is related to the stereotypes of what dance should look like. What do we assume when we use the word dancer?
Considerations for Inclusivity
Heres a list of basic elements that must be considered when presenting, promoting and advertising events where every body is welcome. This doesnt mean that you need to take care of all of these aspects (and all of those that we might have forgotten), but be mindful when advertising that everyone is welcome:
- Is there a ramp for the entrance?
- Is there an elevator?
- Are there any stairs?
- Are there washrooms with accessible sinks and amenities?
- Is the space scent-free?
- Is there a gender-neutral washroom?
- What about the price?
- Is there Sign Language interpretation?
Sarah and I would like to conclude this post in the same way we finished the conversation we had while working on it, asking: why do we need to justify ourselves within the context of dance?
Here are two super useful resources, with more to come in a follow-up post:
The Radical Access Mapping Project (RAMP) focuses on accessibility auditing, captioning and personal reflections on ableism and accessibility. Due to the lack of useful (or often any) accessibility information in our communities, RAMP puts out Free Audit Templates.
Real Wheels is working to find and get more accessible spaces for performances