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Animated Edition - Spring 2002
Taking control?
Dancing Differently? - a national conference about dance and disabled people, February 2002. Here Ken Bartlett unpacks the thinking behind the conference

The right of disabled people to have dance as a life and career option, when, where and however it feels right for them was the central premise of Dancing Differently? The pioneers have been artists, animateurs, teachers and funders - both disabled and non disabled - passionate about dance, but more importantly passionate about people. They have fought for the principle of dance for all. They have fought for recognition of the multiplicity of benefits their work has delivered; they have fought for funds to be allocated to support their work. They have fought for the space as disabled people to make their creative ambitions realised through dance.

They have taken huge risks and in the process developed a solid body of work; experience and knowledge that we can all make a commitment to take forward.

They have demonstrated in action,persistently and consistently Rudolph Laban's contention that everybody can dance with intention and purpose and that there are boundless opportunities for beauty in difference. They have established significant growth in the number of participatory projects and performing companies across the country.

Dancing Differently?came at an important moment politically, the issues of Human Rights and Disability Rights have been established in law but will continue to be tested and contested in the courts as people struggle for full access to their place in society, participation in their communities and cultural life.

It would be impossible not to have noticed the very real growth in the sector, particularly in developmental work. The support that the arts funding system has given to this work has been important, but unless this is now underpinned by more core funding from central government to the arts and from the Arts Council's to dance and in particular disability dance, the achievements we want to celebrate may well be wasted. It is up to us to make that clear when we look to the future and for everyone of us committed to this work to articulate it loudly and clearly.

The conference faced these and other issues as they apply to the arts and how they are being worked through in dance. There were challenges and some discomfort as ideas, thoughts and experiences were exchanged.

No one has the complete picture or the single solution to achieve the utopia we strive for but we can learn from each other and refine our thinking about our practice. Importantly, we can celebrate achievement and build on it to develop a clear national agenda for what we want to happen, plan realistic strategies of how to get there and be reinvigorated with a renewed sense of purpose.

So that, in the words of Paddy Masefield:'When we dance we tell the world there is a future for all of us, as partners, as fusions, as one vast creative family.'

Ken Bartlett, Director, Foundation for Community Dance

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Animated: Spring 2002