We hope you will find it relevant, interesting and enlightening.
The idea for the project first started developing in Jan 2018. I had led Northern Ballet’s Ability for over 5 years and felt I needed some new input. Mia (Support Artist) and I always spend a fair bit of time reflecting on what happens in the sessions; individual’s progress, why things are working (or not) and how we can improve or change what we do to develop their skills further. However, there comes a point when you need some outside expertise. Or just the chance to see how others are approaching common issues.
Hypermobility and how to work with it safely was, and is, an ongoing concern. The majority of our dancers display it which affects their alignment, ability to build and maintain strength, and increases risk of injury amongst many other things. We also often wonder how effectively we’re communicating with our dancers. Is the idea or concept clear? Or can we approach it in another way? How can we enable them to develop their technical dance skills so they can reach their full potential as expressive artists?
So we decided to create a project that would address these needs. We had a small window of time to apply for Erasmus + funding and within that we needed to find two European partners, some Dance Science and Education specialists, work out what a project that answered these questions would look like and write a (very long) application. All in under 8 weeks. Thankfully we were successful! Stopgap Dance Company helped us find some brilliant partners (thank you!) and Wendy Timmons and Mark Pace from the University of Edinburgh came on board.
Here’s some information about the dance companies involved to start. Please keep revisiting to find out more about the project and how it’s progressing…
Team UK – Northern Ballet
Northern Ballet is the busiest touring ballet company in the UK, creating full length ballets, children’s ballets and a range of digital work with a strong focus on the narrative. We believe in the value of creating a diverse range of ballets which appeal to as many people as possible, from all walks of life and we constantly seek to engage new audiences. Our Learning team work with people and communities who face a range of barriers which may prevent them from benefiting from the arts and in 2016/17 we worked with 58,843 people of all ages and abilities across the UK.
Since 2012, we have delivered ‘Ability’, a weekly dance course for adults with a mild to moderate learning disability with the aim of developing the participants technical and creative dance skills while meeting social and developmental needs. The group perform locally, regionally and nationally.
Ability is led by Sophie Alder with Mia Nielson as support artist.
Team Netherlands – Misiconi Dance Company
Misiconi Dance Company is an integrated dance company based in Rotterdam. The company has continued to grow over the last three years. It was founded in 2015 by Joop Oonk and has already pioneering methods of working inclusively in the Netherlands and beyond. The young company delivering its mission with enthusiasm. According to Joop “everyone should have the opportunity to develop their talents, access high quality training, and perform”.
Misiconi focuses on three strands: Misiconi Dance Company, Knowledge Centre and Creative Community Hub makes the company unique in its inclusive artistic vision. Learning, creativity, artistic practice and research goes hand in hand while seeking new opportunities for development. Misiconi aims to achieve artistic exchange, integration, communication and collaboration between young talented artists through dance and performance.
The company is led by Joop Oonk, artistic director and overall dance practitioner, supported by Manouk Schrauwen as education manager and overall dance practitioner.
Team Spain – Psico Ballet Maite Leon Foundation
Psico Ballet Maite Leon Foundation (PBMLF) is a Spanish non-profit private foundation which was created in 1986 by Maite Leon, a dancer, choreographer and mother of a daughter with a learning disability. Their work is focused on the complete scenic training of people with physical, intellectual, developmental or sensory disabilities through their own methodology which is registered as ‘Psico Ballet Maite Leon Method’. This methodology involves dance, theatre, circus, music, voice and scenic makeup classes, for the complete formation of an actor-dancer with disabilities. Through this method, the students acquire a positive perception of themselves, self-motivation, initiative, perseverance, responsibility, autonomy and teamwork among other objectives.
The FPBML wishes to share its approach and learn about other artistic and teaching proposals with other European partners to raise and deepen the profile and purpose of inclusive dance. The FPBML has three artistic companies: School company, Psico Ballet company and Fritsch Company, which is their professional company (seeks for professional scenic employment of its 16 members) and travels on tour around the world performing in festivals and professional circuits.
Those responsible for the entity in the SHIFT project! They are Gabriela Martín, current director of the FPBML and Ramón Marcos, dancer, teacher and choreographer.
“I love participating in this project in which we can exchange and share methodologies with other companies, expand our own knowledge and create work tools for teachers and artists who want to be part of this process.”
“I feel very grateful and fortunate to participate in such an enriching project and with a team of highly qualified professionals since it gives me different perspectives of work and it is very enriching to be able to develop and create each one of the parts of the project in a cooperative way.”
Top image: Joop & Ruben