'One of the questions I have always had about teaching ‘inclusive’ dance is how different it is from just teaching dance. What I keep asking myself is: Have I ever met anyone who is exactly like me? Anyone with exactly the same big toe as mine? Or with the same nose?
The answer is NO and this is the starting point of my teaching no matter who the ‘students’ are.
I think that a traditional approach to dance has tricked us to believe that everyone must move in the same way and, if they do not, then the dance is read as unsuccessful. The illusion of perfection has confused us and forced us to fight against our own bodies – underlining what is not there rather than exploring what could be there. In the last century, thanks to some brave artists, the dance world has opened up to a different approach to movement: enquiring bodies and minds have led many artists to look beyond old and – in my opinion – limiting traditions. Many what ‘ifs’ have been posed since the beginning of the 20th Century and many more what ‘ifs’ need to be asked to allow dance to be more accessible at a professional level.
What if we start considering that not ONE human being is the same as any other? We are unique in the physical, mental, emotional puzzle that makes each of us one of the many creatures who inhabit planet earth. Not one vertebra is built as any other one.
Teaching inclusive/integrative dance is nothing more than acknowledging this fact. Diversity is the base of humanity, perfection does not exist and dance has the potential to celebrate the possibility of coexisting without merging. When I teach I hope to stimulate each individual’s curiosity for their own physicality: what is one’s relation to gravity, how joints fold and unfold, how we create flow in our own body and how we feel as part of a group.
In the Teaching Training Intensive organised by Candoco in November 2012 one of the things that seemed very important to share with the participants was that there is no formula that one should follow in order to then declare: I am teaching an integrated dance class. What is essential is the HOW not the WHAT. How language is used, how intention behind actions is communicated, how clarity and virtuosity can be embraced by everyone. We experienced that even ballet can be taught to anyone who is INTERESTED in finding personal solutions or so called adaptations. The secret ingredient of inclusive practice is an insatiable curiosity for movement. A valuable skill for anyone who is interested in dance is to have the capacity to try, fail, try again, succeed then try again: this is human and goes beyond abilities.
Curiosity first and then a good dose of open-mindedness.
Few days ago, during my lunch break I spent some time outside the studio with Vicky. We were talking about a task that she then taught in her class at Greenwich Dance Agency. It is the ‘this is enough’ game. It is done with a partner: one person lies down to receive touch, the other offers touch. The latter places a hand somewhere on the other person’s body and slowly applies an increasing amount of weight/pressure. The person receiving the touch can say at any point ‘this is enough’. It is a brilliant exercise that can break presumptions of what we think a person is able or willing to take at any point. What can be visually perceived as a frail hand might take much more weight than one can imagine, a strong thigh may take much less than one would expect.
Each person’s potentials and limits in relation to their physicality are unknown to each other. We don’t know, so we need to ask, try, share, experience, be with, in order to find out. A first look might often create misconceived ideas about what is possible and what is not. And the beauty of dancing everyday is that each single day is different… a good lesson I am learning since I joined Candoco. Break preconceived ideas about oneself first and then open one’s mind towards others.
So the invitation when speaking about inclusive practice in dance is to have the curiosity to find out about the amazing potential of the human body and the infinite possibilities that dance can lead us towards.
So keep curious, keep trying, keep finding out, keep dancing!'
Susanna Recchia is a dancer with Candoco
I look forward to more on your blogs and linked-in this week, Module Ones, let's talk on your first AOL drafts this week..