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Animated Edition - Summer 2020
Valleys dancing
Artis Community’s Development Officer and Dance Leader Linzi Ann Rumph talks about artform, flexibility and inclusive dance practice as a mechanism to support the South Wales community in their everyday lives

I often go through periods of asking myself ‘what is my practice?’ ‘How do I work?’ Reflecting and thinking about all the classes I teach, the techniques I use and how I deliver the sessions. Ultimately it all comes back to the individuals in my sessions and that the reason I do what I do is because of them. The word ‘community’ has been a part of me and my roots ever since I was born and the feeling of being part of a collective, bringing joy or a sense of support to someone’s life fills me with happiness. The one thing that always sticks out in my mind when I think of the people in my classes is their smiles.

The very first inclusive session I did in 2011, I remember walking into a room of 25 children and young people who were physically disabled and/or with varied additional learning needs. I was immediately struck with nerves and questions as to whether my teaching style would suit them. It wasn’t long into the session before I realised that I was surrounded by so many beautiful characters who welcomed me and led me through the session, opening my eyes to the many ways of responding to an instruction and that there are no limitations, just new and different ways of doing and being.

Every participant that joins me in any of my sessions has a story to share and brings a different energy, and its wonderful dancing with them each week. My creative style allows anyone and everyone to participate. I believe we all have a style of movement in us and can all dance. The range of exploration allows each person to be themselves, not to be afraid to play and explore and that there is no wrong way.

What interests me the most is how we can take one simple task or way of working and adapt it to suit so many individuals. Whether it’s focussing on the structure of the task, the language used to describe it, the pace in which it is delivered or how the participant reacts or responds to something or what it does for them. Not just in a practical learning sense, but their sense of achievement or expression that could be visibly very small but internally very large. It can give a whole new meaning to the session and become part of what is more than just learning how to perform or how to be a good dancer on stage. It gives everyone the opportunity to achieve in a class setting, doing what they enjoy and are most comfortable with.

The escapism of dance and movement is an influential thing. I think having an option to be able to channel your feelings, emotions and limitations in such an open and exploratory way, in order to support healthier wellbeing and lifestyle, is very powerful. Moving in an exploratory manner encourages active engagement that can lead to personal discoveries of capabilities (1). It can surprise, challenge and encourage people to use imagination and give ownership to the individual.

The community voice is very important to me as an artist in giving and receiving feedback and contributions throughout a session. The space is a place where people can feel welcomed and safe, where we are in the company of friends and feel supported throughout. We talk about topics that are personal to individuals - feelings and emotions that they feel every day or milestone moments in their lives and use this to drive what we creatively explore in the class. Themes and ideas for performances are often linked to this and are an expression of what the individuals are about. Working in this way gives participants real ownership and understanding of what they are learning.

I work with flexibility towards various performances with all groups, ready to adapt plans in response to the group and their input. I try to continue to be as self-aware, to my own preferred way of working, as it allows me to support individuals to engage in dance in a way, which is meaningful to them. Self-awareness, observation and behaviour are great skills for anyone to have in developing as a dancer or as a person, and as Sue Akroyd agrees, in her chapter in Diane Amans’ book An Introduction To Community Dance Practice (2) these skills can definitely be nurtured and developed throughout ones pathway and progression.

My passion for teaching and being part of the community dance sector has led to a specific interest in dance and health. I now work with disabled and differently abled children, young people and adults and people living with Dementia and Parkinson’s. Continued research shows how the arts have the potential to make significant contributions to people’s wellbeing and quality of life. The range of opportunity is as large as it is exciting, and the impact of creative activity on individual wellbeing can have such positive effects (3).

The elements my sessions include: a focus on participants; inclusive practice; celebrating diversity; the experience of feeling valued; being able to engage in a meaningful way and the experience of magical transformative moments. These elements are the reasons why I think community dance is so important and they are also included in the vision of the organisation I work with.

Artis Community is an arts organisation based in Rhondda Cynon Taff (RCT), a large county in the post-industrial South Wales Valleys that is spread out with smaller communities including many isolated areas. The Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation (WIMD) 2019 indicates that areas within RCT are ranked within the highest 10%, in terms of multiple deprivation in Wales, including areas with deep-rooted deprivation (4). It is imperative therefore, that we extend high quality opportunities to as many people as possible within these communities. I know from experience that community dance is a fantastic way of bringing people together, creating and building relationships and supporting many to try something new or develop interests and skills they may never have known they had. I have seen how working in this way can result in individuals experiencing joy and happiness, affecting positive change in health and wellbeing, relationships and self-achievement. The ultimate aim of my practice is to support individuals and communities towards prosperity (well being, growth, expression and the development of confidence and skills through creativity).

I believe inclusive practice to be a strong value of community dance and for me it means encouraging people to engage in dance and being flexible enough to accommodate their different ranges of needs. The challenge that excites me about the dance session is continuing to focus on dance as artform, whilst still fulfilling funding aims and communicating with individuals for any personal goals they would like to reach. As a dance practitioner it is important to me to give individuals the chance to use creative dance as a mechanism in supporting their everyday lives and continuing to support and give opportunities for prosperity and fulfilment through creative dance.

Info


Photo credits from top and left to right


  1. Participants Rosie and Ashleigh from True Colours Dance Theatre group, 'Connections' project. Photo: Spring Box Photography
  2. Rhys and Linzi Rumph, True Colours Dance Theatre group - 'Moments and Memories 2017'. Photo: Spring Box Photography
  3. Linzi Rumph, Sam and Bradley, Spectrwm Inclusive Dance group, Community Dance Evening 2016 'The Moon'. Photo: Spring Box Photography
  4. Community Dance session at Dowlais Community Centre. Photo: Linzi Rumph
  5. Gadlys True Colours Dance Theatre group, 'Music Movement and Me' 2018. Photo: Barefoot Photography.

References



(1) Salmon, P. 2018 Mindful Movement in Psychotherapy. The Guildford Press, 2020
(2) Amans, D., 2017. An Introduction To Community Dance Practice. 2nd ed. macmillan education
(3) Arts Council of Wales (2018) Arts and Health in Wales A Mapping study of current activity (Volume 1: Analysis, findings and proposals) Retrieved from The Arts Council of Wales website 
(4) Ystadegau Ar Gyfer Cymru Statistics for Wales. Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation (WIMD) 2019 Results Report. Retrieved from Welsh Government website
 

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Animated: Summer 2020