The Dance Seminar

We went to a dance seminar yesterday called ‘Accessing Pathways to Training for Disabled Young Dancers’. It was organised by the UK-based dance examination and training board, the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing (ISTD).

We drove 400 miles from Borth to the handsome University of Bedfordshire. No big deal it turned out – Delph and I cruised there in Jack’s black Audi. I haven’t driven it much before, though I’m insured to. This is because usually Jack’s cars are his babies and he’s the one who drives long distance.

Not this time. Part of the seminar was going to concentrate on funding pathways. Listening was going to be key. Not that Jack can’t listen – with his own work he can out-listen a leopard but, well within the division of our familial duties, I’m the one who listens more. We left at 6am and Delphine officially named our car Olympia at Telford Services in recognition of the Audi rings. Let me tell you; all was well. Olympia moves like butter.

I think we were the only mother-daughter duo at the seminar. Delphine was definitely the youngest. Oh well. The rest of the participants seemed to be dance teachers or working within the dance industry. A talk at the beginning looked at the provision of dance for disabled dancers at three private dance schools. For each school, a programme of inclusive dance was set up. The results were interesting and practical. Questions included, do you need extra teachers? How do you break movement up to suit individual needs? How do you keep engagement within dance? I listened on the edge of my seat. Delphine sat next to me and watched The Greatest Dancer on my phone..

I learned about the practice of an enrichment class – where extra considerations are made for technique. Enrichment classes are run for both disabled dancers and non-disabled dancers who need a little extra help for technique. A simple idea no? With wide-ranging effects – creating an inclusive framework for the entire dance school. I sighed. Doesn’t happen at our dance school. Not yet.

I mean, why should disabled kids dance? Historically dance is a spectacle of human dexterity and physical skill. I even discovered it’s called aesthetics.

Check this out though. I didn’t get Delph into dance because of any barrier-breaking. I enrolled Delphine in dance class because in our rural community in Mid-Wales, she wasn’t getting enough access to physio. Three-years old little cerebral palsy toddler. I used dance as physiotherapy. It was something Delphine could do without even knowing she was ‘supposed’ to do it. Now I’m driving 400 miles in a day for dance. Ha! Karma is alive and well.

Our dance school is a good place. Yes, the emphasis for Delph there has been trying to keep up with her peers. There have been classes she’s quit because she’s gotten upset about being shouted at. I didn’t complain either – maybe my fault. I had a pretty good idea of the answer if I did complain. It’d be ‘She’s being treated the same as everyone else.’

After this seminar, I think I know the answer. ‘Ok, but she’s not the same.’

Duh. And yet, it seems like in most areas of life, it’s for the disabled person to keep up. In this case, it’s a dancer’s world and you have to put up or shut up. This is despite dancing being a wonderful thing for disability. Dancing creates confidence and thus independence for disabled people. Expression equals mental well-being. I want to give you figures and stats at this point. I can only tell you I’ve seen it with my own eyes. With my own daughter.

In fairness to the ISTD, who set up and ran this seminar, they wholeheartedly admitted that disability in the dance world is right at the beginning. In order to achieve inclusion, you have to have the framework of syllabus training and support for everyone.

Here comes the good news. We ready!

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