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Developing inclusive dance
Date posted: 11 November 2019
Two years on from the 11MRTD strategic tour, Louise Wildish asks Emma Bouch at artsNK, Lincolnshire, if the project really made an impact.

What has been the disabled dance provision say three years ago and how has it changed?

Three years ago before artsNK Dance launched their Dance and Disabilities Programme there was virtually no dance provision for young people or adults with a disability within Lincolnshire. There was some provision for disability sports or local drama groups but there didn’t seem to be any dance groups within the county that we were aware of.

artsNK Dance in partnership with Transported, have been running a successful Dance and Disabilities programme since October 2016. The programme covers a range of styles, genres and movement explorations to encourage and develop coordination, creative thinking, mobility and fun for all of the dancers. The programme was initially funded by Lincolnshire County Council’s Shortbreaks and provides carers/parents of our participants some relief time from one-to-one care, if they wish to use the time of the session for their purposes.

There are currently two Dance and Disabilities groups still running - one one in North Hykeham within the North Kesteven District of Lincolnshire and the other in Spalding within the South Holland District.

As well as supporting the 11MRTD exhibition one of the other ways which artsNK and Transported embedded inclusivity and championed 11MRTD was by running a community engagement/audience development programme. This included two performance platforms by local dance groups and the new disability dance groups we had formed who performed as a curtain raiser for Stopgap Dance Company and Casson and Friends at the South Holland Centre in Spalding. The professional company’s performances were organised by The South Holland Centre and the participants from our Dance and Disabilities programme got to watch their performances. Many of our D+D participants were truly inspired and were proud of themselves that they had also performed on that same stage.

What did 11MRTD do for the region if anything?

The 11MRTD project created a shift in disabled dance provision because the programme and performances not only promoted awareness but brought together mainstream and inclusive groups to perform in the same show. It also brought access to those who wouldn’t usually get to witness or experience dance before which champions the ethos that dance is for everyone regardless of ability or background. A platform of this nature had never happened in Lincolnshire before so it started a journey of change to begin forming a disability dance network across the region which is our overall aim.

Here are some quotes from some of the Dance and Disabilities parents which highlight the impact of the 11MRTD project:

  • "Yes! It was brilliant to see such a range of performances from a wide variety of people. The way dance pieces were tailored to the participants showed fab creativity. I like that there were a mix of dancers with and without disabilities, promoting inclusivity rather than being a ‘disabled dance show'"
  • "Absolutely it shows that dance can be accessible to all, that it is not a rigid activity designed only for those that fit inside the boxes! It provides a form of fun exercise for the participants and increases the visibility of those with disabilities in the eyes of the wider community"
  • "This type of work benefits the community because the creative and flexible nature of dance lends itself to promoting diverse and open-minded communities. Anyone can dance, and they should be supported to do so".

The 11 Million Reasons to Dance Programme has had a truly inspiring effect on the young people involved. The Spalding and North Hykeham Dance and Disabilities classes have been run by artsNK Dance/Transported and supported by 11MRTD since October 2016. Since then both groups have performed at numerous events for the past three years including artsNK Dance’s end of year youth dance programme show and both groups continue to grow in numbers.

What is happening now and what are you doing? Unify is a huge part of that and this is the future?

As outlined above we still run the Dance and Disabilities class within North Hykeham and have more recently handed over the delivery of the Spalding class to Transported but artsNK still help facilitate and signpost to the class.

In 2018 the artsNK Dance team were invited to deliver creative dance sessions at a local Sense Centre for deafblind adults and those with complex disabilities. The sessions were really well received and the team, together with the groups from Sense, have developed a way of moving and working together that draws out the individual’s creativity and joy of movement. Sessions have been running weekly since October 2018.

artsNK Dance would like to further the 11MRTD legacy by establishing and running a new Dance Festival called Unify Dance Festival and have recently been granted funding to do so. Unify Dance Festival will be a dance sharing which brings together dance groups of D/deaf, disabled or non-disabled dancers from Lincolnshire and surrounding areas. The festival will give dancers the chance to showcase their skills to an audience on a professional stage. During the festival the dancers will have the opportunity to participate in an inclusive dance workshop led by Charlotte Tomlinson. SideKick’s adults group will also perform as a finale piece in the show to inspire the young people to continue dancing after the festival.

As part of the funding artsNK Dance is also establishing two new dance groups for and with D/deaf and disabled young people prior to the festival, to not only perform at the event but to become permanent groups after the festival has finished. One of these new groups was formed through a new partnership with a Lincolnshire special needs school. An artsNK dance artist will begin delivering a ten week programme to create a piece with the students to be performed at Unify. artsNK formed this partnership with Grantham Additional Needs Fellowship which comprises of two Grantham-based schools; Ambergate Sports College and Sandon School. Emily, Dance Development Officer from artsNK, will deliver the project in the school and with an aim to form a new dance group for young people with disabilities post-festival, in partnership with the Fellowship from November 2019 onwards.

The other new class which artsNK Dance are forming as part of Unify is a new adult dance company within Lincolnshire that provides dance training to aspiring dancers with a learning disability, autism or both and to improve access opportunities. This group will be piloted at the Lincoln Drill Hall from September 2019 onwards and this group will also perform at Unify.

As well as the groups mentioned artsNK Dance have also invited a local group called ‘Dreamland Drama’ who are a Drama Club for adults with learning disabilities to develop or discover their storytelling and acting skills as well as building confidence. This group is ran by Alice Kinloch who is a local drama professional who has been championing inclusion within performing arts for many years.

artsNK Dance have also invited a local secondary academy to bring along one their dance groups to participate in the festival and to perform. The University of Lincoln dance department have expressed interest in participating in the festival.

artsNK Dance have offered voluntary dance assistant roles for the festival and have already received interest. So if there is anybody wishing to further their skills and who has an interest in community dance then please contact Emma Bouch (artsNK Dance) via email on

What’s the impact of your work?

Our work increases the visibility of those with disabilities in the eyes of the wider community. It is artsNK Dance’s mission to build a stronger and more consistent dance network for D/deaf and disabled people within Lincolnshire. This network hopes to provide more opportunities for all to experience dance in some capacity not just a select few and to encourage more young people with a disability to train in dance professionally as well as recreationally.