Have you ever wondered where people with disabilities who dance are,and why they are not provided a category at a dance festival or competition to perform or compete? Many times choreographers, educators, and even audience members will point this point out from time to time, but what are we doing to change that? How are we contributing to the inclusion of performer's with disabilities?
It starts at providing them a space or division to compete or perform in. This is really not hard to to, yet it is not as common as a stretch and strength flexibility element at your event. This could be the case for a variety of reasons, but the reasons only matter if you want to be one of the people who helps performers with a disability #GetOnTheScene.
What is important to ponder about is how you will manage adding this category to your event, not whether a person with a disability will apply, or how many. It is pretty rare for a performer or educator with a disability to reach out to you, so putting the word out that you are looking for people within this category is a great place to start.
If you do not know any performers or educators with a disability within your area, reach out to your peers, then consider using online platforms to find someone in another province or country. Of course there is a possibility that emerging performers and choreographers exist in your area and you or your peers just dont know about them.
In that case, YouTube and Instagram are great resources for finding emerging artists and choreographers who are trying to #GetOnTheScene . The truth is, as this is still a category that is "opening up", most artists that you find will be at the emerging level, but this is not a bad thing! They most likely have amazing potential that has not been harnessed due to barriers they face in accessing inclusive dance education and performance opportunities. People often say "well how do we know if they are out there, and if they will want to participate?" Well, you wont know until you Reach out.
The potential to create amazing collaborations with diverse artists is right in our finger tips, but it starts with changing our views of what constitutes a disability, and what we want it to look like to us. Let's look at some examples shall we?
- Example #1: Dancer A, uses a wheelchair to dance as she can not walk, but she can still move her body to the music. Dancer B,learns how to dance alongside Dancer A without using a wheelchair in a collaborative duo
- Example #2: Dancer A, uses a wheelchair to dance as she can not walk, but she can still move her body to the music. Dancer B, learns how to dance alongside Dancer A by learning how to dance in a wheelchair by dancing in one.
When we look at life through another person's lens, we discover beauty within the spectrum of dance. So let's begin this new dance, shall we? All it takes is a little role reversal, and imagination. Just like many women are competing as leads in ballroom and various social dancing styles, the roles can be reversed the same way in dance.
Before you worry about what you will teach, or they will teach as you become more inclusive, focus on opening that door with an open call. For tips on how you can make your event or venue more inclusive please visit this other article I wrote packed with great tips from a fresh perspective:
Now that you have decided that you would like to make your event or venue more inclusive to performers and educators with disabilities, how do you evaluate your processes? This thought can be overwhelming when trying to figure out where to start, but determining whether or not you will sell enough tickets for this category should NEVER cross your mind. Once again, just because a person does not have a disability or a disability that is the same as the educator or choreographer with a disability, DOES NOT mean they will not participate in that category. The more diversity dancers receive in their training the better performers they will be. Whether you are planning a class, workshop, or festival for emerging to semi professional artists or drop in recreation programs the same principles below will apply.
Yes, we all love to use the most known artists to draw a large crowd to our events, but there IS space within the ticket category for artists and audiences with disabilities. Never under-estimate the power of a community to make a stand for something they believe in. So how can you make your dance space for accessible?
Here are 7 great tips to get you started:
1. Try to hire a Judge that has a disability for your competition for a more balanced perspective on the floor, whether or not you have opened a category for performer's with a disability or not.
2. Try to hire a Choreographer or Educator with a disability that will offer an inclusive class for students with or without a disability.
3. Start offering classes that focus on teaching different types of dance using the integrated method, train educators you have that do not have a disability, and look for ones that do to lead the class. Apprenticeship and cross-training is a great place to start.
4. Reach out to organisations that provide leisure and recreation services to person's with different disabilities to offer classes, workshops, apprenticeship, and performing opportunities at an emerging/ beginner level to get started.
5. Add a Adaptive Category to your dance festival, competition and event. You do not need to be specific on the type of disability as that may create a barrier, as disabilities exist on a spectrum. A performers talent, potential, and hard work should give them the opportunity besides the artistic merit. Whatever disability they have is simply just a part of their story.
6. Dance IS a sport, providing small performance opportunities outside of large productions are STILL opportunities. If you can, provide "growth" opportunities to performers. Just like a sport there are various divisions within a category. If we really want to see the potential of dancers with a disability flourish, we need to provide "expansion" opportunities for them.
7. Dont sweat the small stuff. Ask questions, seek advice, request feedback. Make your space a safe space for constructive critismn where performers with or without disabilities can try new things and "experiment", without having to worry about "how". The why is "just because", the rest comes later. Dont overly judge yourself or the educators, and performer's in the process. The point of the process is to do something new and learn from it to get better. Nothing is built perfectly in the first day, so listen, and go with the flow.
Did you know DDSP is looking for performer's with disabilities and we launch our new dance crew division disABILITY? We want to hear from you! DDSP is available for consultation and our Educators and performers provide showcases across Manitoba and Canada. For more information:
Want to get #OnTheScene with DDSP? Click here to find out more about our performing and education opportunities: