The First Exchange

The First Exchange

By Joop

It was just before Christmas and we all know this is one of the busiest times of the year for dance practitioners or even as director. Well, it didn’t matter because we were all so excited to travel to Leeds to meet all the Partners in real life. Of course there had been Skype meetings in between, but it’s never the same. It was also the first time we met the researchers of the University of Leeds and University of Edinbrugh.

Manouk: ‘When Joop asked me to join the project I felt really honored and exited. We have been waiting for a while to start the project and there it was, the first residency!’

Me and Manouk travelled late in the evening to leeds directly and stayed at a hotel just 5 minutes away from Northern Ballet. The next morning we started at 10:00. Even though a lot of things were discussed and mentioned via Skype, we had a lot of things to do and clarify. Mostly contracts, agreements, the specific content of the research and how where going to research. The days were full of sharing ideas and thoughts. It was nice to feel that we are not alone in this world and we can work together to grow. You could feel the passion for our craftmanship with all the people involved in the project. Even though we had different paths, we do share the same goal. Developing a proper method in dance for dancers with a learning disability. We will search, work hard and try out, discuss and try again! Together with our dancers back in our countries. The beginning of a big adventure.

However it was also quite overwhelming and a big project! There was just an overload of information and it needed to be structured.

We also found out more about hyper-mobility. Marc Pace and Wendy Timmons gave a lecture about this topic in connection to talent development. It was very interesting to recognize some aspects and effects of hyper-mobility. Almost everyone in the room could just nod and say; ‘Yes I have that’. Both explained the holistic approach to the research, the connection between social, physical and psychological well-being and its importance.Nevertheless, there was still work to do. We all muttered enthusiastic to tackle the work as fast as possible. After 1 full day discussing it was good that we had a second day in the dance studio’s of Northern Ballet. It gave us the opportunity to not only get to know each other’s principles and thoughts but also their practice in the studio. Every partner had to teach and share their practice for 2 hours with the Ability group.
For me and Manouk it was wonderful to see that so many things were similar to our practice back home in The Netherlands. The Ability group showed the rest of the partners what exercises they have been working on. We also loved the energy of the group. They were all so concentrated, motivated and far in their development as dancers. In our class we worked around themes like contact and partner work. We even worked on lifts.

In addition we had been working with objects and how to lift or work with these. By the end of the class we exchanged the object for a member/person of the group. Everyone was lifted once. This exercise had made such an impression that it will stay with us for the rest of the project. All the dancers want to be lifted again and again, haha.


Psico Ballet Maite León Foundation was responsible of the first class on the second day of work, which was based on the work of a normal class of the Foundation. They worked on developing aspects of the dancer’s quality and dynamics individually, in couples and as a group. In addition, they worked on the development of creativity and imagination through objects and improvisation with the objects and the other’s body.

Gabriela and Ramon echoed that it was very special and rewarding to see the work of each partner and how many points we had in common. In addition to meeting Ability two things stood out to them; teaching a class and observing as they followed it in an outstanding way, and also learning and getting to know each other through dancing together in classes that were taught by each other.


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