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Written by Harmanie Taylor, Sarah Lapp, Diana McKenzie and Cherylann Buckman

 

From February 1st to 5th, 2016, the first ever Canadian Inclusive Dance Teacher Intensive was held in Calgary, hosted by Momo Dance Theatre. The workshop was facilitated by Renata Soutter and Shara Weaver Co-Artistic Directors of Ottawa’s Propeller Dance with help from MoMo’s Pamela Boyd and Vancouver’s Naomi Brand. The gathering brought together dancers from across Canada to study and learn from established Canadian integrated dance teachers and inclusive dance companies. Thanks to funding from Made in BC: Dance on Tour, All Bodies Dance Project was able to send four emerging dance facilitators to the workshop.

The five-day workshop brought together 22 dancers and teachers from five established, mixed-ability dance groups across the country. Mixed ability dance is an approach that is accessible to all bodies and all abilities, including people with physical, developmental, sensory and neurological disabilities. The aim of the workshop was to define values of inclusive teaching practices and create dialogue around disability pride. In order to help grow the field of mixed ability dance in Canada, we need more training opportunities such as this.

From Ottawa to Vancouver the wealth of knowledge in the room generated a colossal sharing of ideas, dynamic lesson plans, creative teaching techniques and the instruction of inclusive language and vocabulary while developing interpersonal communication skills. We gained so much insight from the discussions and practical experience about how to develop as dance teachers. The chance to learn from and dance with others who share our passion was incredible experience that will help shape our own practice here in Vancouver with All Bodies Dance Project.

Sarah Lapp recalls her experience, which resonates with each of us: “I am so thankful for the generosity of Made In BC: Dance on Tour and their support! Over the 5 days, I absorbed a wealth of information and was given a safe space to practice teaching “live” to wrap up the week. I felt very privileged to meet other like-minded dance practitioners from my own country and to be able to learn and share knowledge from each organization that together forms Canada’s growing mixed ability dance discipline. I am looking forward to growing these relationships and accessing more opportunities toward building Canada’s presence in the field, both at home and internationally.”

Cherylann Buckman adds of her observations “I was so impressed by the commitment shown by workshop participants who were presently volunteering or employed in social work with organizations fostering community enrichment with vulnerable populations. The workshop was of intense value as they returned to their workplace with a fresh perspective on community engagement and practical lesson plans that would enhance group collaboration and creativity. “

Harmanie Taylor shares “I am grateful to Made in BC to have this experience as a person who dances in a chair to learn from established integrated dance artists. As I begin realizing who I am as a dancer and a teacher, the information I have absorbed at this workshop will be something I will be reflecting on for years to come. There are not many learning opportunities for disabled dance artists. I am very grateful to have been able to be a part of this one.

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Thank you Made in BC: Dance on Tour for your support. We are excited about where we and All Bodies Dance Project is heading!