Dance Agent For Change Impact report, October 2010 (Jo Verrent for ADA inc) “The issue of diversity and inclusion is so important and to have someone like Caroline who as I said, from first meeting, I was so taken with, as an agent for social change is pretty brilliant”. (Heidi Latsky, GIMP) Setting the scene… The story continues… Caroline Bowditch is Scottish Dance Theatre’s Dance Agent for Change. In what began as a two-year programme to act as a catalyst for change in both dance and disability, this role has now been extended for another 2 years, enabling the post to do more, and deliver more widely. Caroline is the embodiment of a dance agent for change. She continues to challenge my own thinking through her work both in advocacy and artistic practice. In fact it is the symbiotic relationship between these which I think is most profound and therefore having the most effective impact. For example, my encounters with her during the recent Fringe in Edinburgh has been as a performer (in Janice Parker’s Private Dancer), as cochoreographer and performer (in SDT’s NQR) and as an advocate and facilitator in chairing the Devil’s Advocate session ‘Are Disabled Artists Capable of Excellence’. Her personal generosity is infectious but also enables her to probe deeply in challenging the structures and assumptions which are prevalent within our (dance) culture. Quite simply, dance in Scotland is richer and more buoyant because of Caroline. (Anita Clark, Head of Dance, Creative Scotland) An impact report was produced in Sept 2009 commenting on the impact of the post within the initial year. This report looks at the second year’s activity and keeps asking the same question: What impact has the role had? Before diving on into commenting on the work done to date, it’s worth just pausing to reflect upon the title of Caroline’s post: Dance Agent for Change. Nearly two years on it is still drawing comment and reflection: [When I met Caroline] I wasn’t 100% sure of what the title meant in practice. The website is clear about what she does but you are still left wondering what it really means. I really like the openness about the job title; its not ‘for disabled people’ – and I like that, its not just about access or disability. It sounds much wider than the company itself, its not just SDT’s role, and it’s clearly not just an access officer. (Rachel Bagshaw, Graeae) The title implies that something needs to change – as an approach. The name Candoco doesn’t say that. I like it because it’s a provocation, a call to action. Combined with Caroline’s personality, it aligns brilliantly – she feels like someone who does something, does make changes and wants to do something more. (Luke Pell, Candoco) “As I do not really know the details of what she is doing exactly for the company, I feel I can only answer that in theory I think it is a brilliant position, even in title alone. It speaks volumes and I say bravo to the company for creating this position and putting it out there for the world to see”. (Heidi Latsky, GIMP) So is the Dance Agent for Change post about political change – ensuring disabled people 1
have greater equality of access to the whole of the training and dance industries? Is it about aesthetic change – ensuring that audiences are exposed to seeing creative and quality work involving disabled performers? Is it about change within SDT? Within Dundee? Within Scotland? Nationally? Internationally? The answer still appears hard to define, which, perhaps controversially, is still one of the successes of the project. The ecology of the dance sector is elusive, hard to pin down. In tackling barriers and creating change within it, the dance agent for change post refuses to inhabit just one space, or just one element of the complex whole. As Anita Clark commented above, the impact of the post may rest of its ability to exploit the symbiotic relationship between theory and practice, between advocacy and art. In general, I think Caroline challenges the way that we (dancers, teachers, choreographers, members of the audience, participants of workshops, authorities...) think about dance nowadays. I feel as though, at this stage, Caroline’s role is more about raising questions than about actually finding definitive answers. There are many issues that still have to be resolved by the community concerning dance and disability, but the fact of having Caroline onboard helps us to focus on the right direction. (Joan LopezCleville, Dancer, SDT) To produce this report, a number of individuals who have had contact with the post – both within SDT, the dance sector in Scotland, the dance sector nationally and internationally have been asked for their opinions – both on Caroline Bowditch and the post itself. Some have had a considerable investment in the post, others just a fleeting contact. The idea behind this is two fold: firstly to see what is ‘sticky’ about the dance agent for change (both the concept and the individual post holder) – what makes for long lasting impact? And secondly to try and find out what it is that makes this so – what are the contributory factors to the impact the post is having? The rest of this report comments on the impact of some of the varied elements that have made up the programme for the Dance Agent for Change in 2009/10 and concludes by looking at the impact of the post so far and the implications for its future delivery.
So what’s happened and what’s happening? Caroline Bowditch created a PowerPoint presentation in early summer 2010 aimed at explaining her role and areas of work. It neatly summaries the aims of the Dance Agent for Change post as the following:
To challenge the idea: ‘What is a dancer and who can dance’? To increase the number of disabled people involved in dance in Scotland. To increase confidence of people delivering dance in Scotland to everyone, making dance more accessible. To explore the possibility of breaking new artistic ground in dance with integration at the forefront. To offer an integrated creative learning programme that educates, inspires, informs and expands horizons. To map out a path for the future of integrated dance in Scotland.
Within it she also lists her achievements to date:
Since starting in post in April 2008, the DAFC has had contact with over 12,000 people Audiences - The Long and the Short of It has been seen live by approx. 5500 people since Autumn 2008 with You Tube views of 3290 and NQR has been seen by over 5000 in our Spring season Workshops - Over 1200 people have attended over 100 workshops delivered Training sessions - Over 200 people have been involved in various training sessions Presentations - 720 have heard about DAFC through presentations CPD - 60 artists, emerging and established, have been involved in mentoring or other professional development activities
Heady statistics for a one person post! Of course the post does not exist in isolation, and the results from the post must be shared with the whole team at SDT, as each element is delivered in partnership with the relevant individuals and departments within the company. The Dance Agent for Change programme works across three distinct areas – Caroline’s own artistic work within the company and the creative learning work she delivers as part of the SDT Creative Learning team, the strategic development and research that accompany the role and the advocacy and dissemination elements within it: Artistic and Creative Learning – currently Caroline is performing in NQR, has The Long and Short of It in the SDT touring rep and has developed a new piece called Leftovers with Marc Brew, she attends SDT Classes at Dundee Rep, runs Creative Learning Projects in consultation and collaboration with SDT Creative Learning (both in Dundee, across Scotland and into other parts of the UK), is planning to take part in national collaborative projects and CPD. Through the post, the company has also enabled SDT dancers to undertake research work with other disability related projects such as work with Janice Parker and Independence. Caroline is also involved with the company’s international touring. Caroline toured to China with the company in 2009, working with Janet Smith to deliver an education programme in Shanghai, Beijing and one focusing on diversity in Guangzhou. Strategic Development and Research – she is developing a symposium which will take place in Autumn 2011 for performing arts practitioners in Further and Higher Education in partnership with key players within the field including The Rep Theatre, Federation of Scottish Theatre, National Theatre of Scotland, Telford College, The Space and RSAMD, has established links with SQA (Scottish Qualifications Authority), and the continuation of the Creative Thinking Network and mentors other disabled artists within Scotland. Dissemination and Advocacy – She is running a series of Devil’s Advocate seminars, regularly gives presentation at conferences, festivals and other networking events nationally and internationally, runs disability equality training sessions, is developing a resource pack to be finalised at the end of the project and works closely with the SDT marketing team regarding information dissemination.
Artistic and Creative Learning Caroline the dancer, Caroline the choreographer
Caroline’s relationship as a dancer with SDT began with Angels of Incidence (developed by Janet Smith with Adam Benjamin and featuring disabled dancers Michael King, Cornelia Kip-Lee and Daniel Daw alongside Caroline and the SDT company). Once at SDT as Dance Agent for Change, Caroline created The Long and the Short of It with SDT’s Apprentice Dancer, Tom Pritchard, with lighting by SDT’s Technical Manager, Emma Jones - a short duet, to show in an education context, and this was then taken into the company's main touring repertoire. Within the last 12 months, Artistic Director, Janet Smith has yet again extended Caroline’s artistic role. Caroline, Janet and Marc Brew recently co-directed NQR (Not Quite Right), which also features both Caroline and Marc as dancers. This has been on national tour in the Spring/Summer and featured at the Edinburgh Festival as part of the prestigious Made in Scotland Showcase, Summer 2010 and will tour in the Autumn of 2010 to Scottish venues. When talking to Luke Pell at Candoco, he mentioned some interesting aspects to Caroline’s performance (in relation to The Long and the Short of it): “I saw The Long and the Short of It at the Place, and really enjoyed it, far more than Angels. It was playful – and it was so good to see work like that within the context of The Place. Her humour, her playfulness – her presence is wonderful on stage. What that does for an audience is different.... It felt incredibly intimate, and sweet in the intimacy of their relationship. I wanted more, to see more of what Caroline can do and more of their relationship. I would like to see a full-length evening of that type of work. It was really refreshing.” (Luke Pell, Candoco) Caroline and Marc have worked together again on a new piece called Leftovers for which they are both choreographed and are performing. It has been commissioned by DaDa Fest, an international festival that brings together the best of deaf and disability arts for autumn 2010. Leftovers is described as “an eclectic mix of discarded dances carefully gathered from the studio floor - each one with its own potential”. Caroline’s humour is evident on stage with SDT, within the above piece and within her performance in NQR. Having seen video footage of some of her own personal dance practice (with Girl Jonah, for example) there is also a serious intent that often emerges in her work. I’m interested therefore in the purpose behind the humour. Is it a reaction to ‘mainstream’? To working with other dancers? To breakdown the barrier between dancers and audience? Does it have shadows of being different in the playground and using humour to avoid being bullied? For Amanda Chinn, General Manager at SDT, it’s simply an extension of what all the dancers bring to their work at SDT: “For me, Caroline simply brings her personality to the stage. In Leftovers there is humour but also very moving images/sections. Caroline’s impact as a wonderful performer is evident for audiences and, for me, she is bringing her life experience to her performance, just as other dancers do”. (Amanda Chinn, SDT) The journey towards NQR was designed to be exploratory and challenging, with three strong visions working together to create one piece. From the outset, it was known that both Marc and Caroline would be choreographing, and having that rare opportunity to make work on bodies that were not their own – rare for disabled artists, that is. Historically, there have been few opportunities for disabled dancers to move forwards into choreography for work not for their own bodies. This year, for the first time in its history, Candoco announced that it was to build work for 2012 through using disabled choreographers. Interestingly, both the artists’ chosen are linked to SDT – Marc Brew 4
(currently Associate Director Fellow) and Claire Cunningham (who has been mentored by the Dance Agent for Change programme). There are still few disabled dancers, and fewer still disabled choreographers, so when individuals inhabit both roles, raises interesting questions. As an audience member, I found myself questioning whether by dancing in the piece themselves, both Marc and Caroline subverted or challenged their own roles as choreographers within the piece. I don’t know whether I would have had the same reaction if they were both non disabled creators and performers. As the artistic collaboration was unusual for all kinds of reasons – three creative’s working together as equals, two dancing in the piece and one not – and not just the fact that two were physically disabled, its hard to pin point distinct issues around disability and integration, for participant and viewer, over what is a normal part of the collaborative process and what was different because of ‘disability’. The learning through the process was profound for all and full of learning: “In my experience there are some interesting issues of perceived status and disempowerment particular to the doing and viewing of this work of which I was unaware at the outset. This included dramaturgic/political issues around questions of understudying and adaptations; why can’t a dancer replacing a wheelchair user in a role use the wheelchair? This question now has a future research plan attached to it.” (Janet Smith, SDT) “It was an amazing opportunity and slightly daunting task to choreograph on the company. It was a challenge for everyone, including me, I think to see me in this role. During the process I felt like I began to take on more of a conceptual and dramaturgical type role whereas Marc and Janet both crafted the movement in the studio – they were amazing. I learnt an incredible amount from them but also I learnt a great deal about my process, how I work and what’s important to me in a making process. I realized I’m happiest working on small groups of dancers and tend to generate movement from an idea or a concept. I clearly remember having a moment of completely losing my confidence and feeling very supported by Janet who faces that type of pressure on a regular basis – I’m not sure how she does it. I’m really happy with where we ended up and the learning curve was significant for me. How much I changed the way the dancers feel about making inclusive work I’m not sure but I think the process left us all wanting more.” (Caroline Bowditch, SDT) This report is not about focusing on the impact of the creative process (although more of how that process developed can be found in an article written for Animated, Winter 2010), but it is about the impact of the Dance Agent for Change post. The impact on Caroline is captured above, what about the impact on audiences and the impact on the dancers at SDT? Impact in performance To date, I have only seen NQR twice. For me, the work included a range of styles and aesthetics. In some places I felt I could see a distilled common vision, and in others separate ideas and aesthetics emerging. Critical responses to the work have been excellent:
‘NQR brings together disabled and able-bodied dancers so seamlessly it looks like the most natural combination in the world. That said, the work also glories in the fact that all 11 dancers on stage – and by extension all of us – are different. SDT proves again what a cosmopolitan and thought-provoking company it is” Kelly Apter, The Scotsman **** '[rarely] have I seen a disabled performer use their body with such stark brilliance.' The Sunday Herald 'If it seems a little noisy in Dundee at the moment, it’s because there’s some serious groundbreaking going on there. Under the forward-thinking eye of artistic director Janet Smith, Scottish Dance Theatre (SDT) is producing work which forces us to alter our perception of what dance is and, more importantly, who can dance.' The List 'Dance doesn't get more inclusive, or more thought-provoking, than this.' Hi-Arts on NQR Audiences too had very positive responses:
‘This is the most captivating dance performance I have ever seen’ ‘LOVED it – looked beautiful, sounded beautiful and made you think too’ ‘Well done, integrated - no 'token'’ ‘so good to see the involvement of disabled dancers and how much can be done… just confirms what a good medium dance is for inclusion’ 'We especially loved NQR - pushing the envelope that little bit. Just what we need' (all from direct audience feedback)
As is to be expected, the piece challenged some audience members, and the feedback forms gave an opportunity for people to comment on how they felt about seeing disabled dancers on stage. A small minority of these comments reveal the discomfort some people still have with the concept of inclusive or integrated dance. In Dance Theatre dancers represent/interpret life experiences so is it necessary to have the real life sufferers (of life) on stage on this occasion?
‘Dancing = yes, disabled included =no. Disabled could have their own show.’ (from direct audience feedback)
Other people felt the involvement of disabled dancers on stage was a positive element, although the use of language by some shows how deep the views around tragedy/disability run: ‘I felt the disabled dancers showed courage in displaying their disability.’ ‘Acceptability, integration, recognition of individual strengths despite disabilities.’ ‘NQR is real food for thought, showing the way forward and opening doors for folk with disabilities, very moving indeed.' In relation to the dance agent for change post, one of the simplest and yet most profound comments was this: ‘I guess it reinforced the idea that we're all just people.’ (from direct audience feedback)
This strikes at perhaps the heart of the role – the desire to simply normalize the experience of disabled people dancing – at all levels, in all ways, with the appropriate support. Taking this one step further, one member of SDT questioned the desire to ask for such specific feedback: “As we travel the country, especially whilst touring NQR, I have met many people and heard lots of feedback about our disabled artists. Overwhelmingly this appears to be positive feedback. Of course, there has been some provocative and negative feedback on the SDT feedback forms about whether disabled artists should perform on stage with nondisabled dancers, however I also feel that by posing the question on the forms we have left ourselves open to criticism. If we asked similar questions about race, religion, or sexuality – even whether dancers should speak on stage - then we would be inviting equally controversial responses. I feel that this is one of the glories of the arts, and of our work as a repertory dance company. We are not there to appease our audience, or to only keep the audience within their comfort zones”. (James MacGillivray, SDT) For those within the disability sector, the idea of seeing disabled bodies on stage is usual, seeing them in a mainstream context is not. There is a real recognition of the importance of the context SDT brings. SDT is not, and does not want to become, a ‘disability company’. The strength of the programming here is in the fact that the work is not seen through the narrow ‘disability’ lens, but can be seen – and therefore impact on – a wider audience. “For audiences though, their journey is different – however much we may have seen some of the ideas within work before, for them it can be fresh and exciting. It unpacks some of the notions and debate and it’s important that this kind of work is there. For SDT to involve disabled performers can be a surprise for audiences – and a nice surprise…” Luke Pell, Candoco “I feel that what is key here is people's exposure to dance that is strong and good art. Like modern dance that people shy away from when they see something "weird", "mixed ability" dance has a similar issue and exposure to works of art that are of a high quality will certainly I believe help the acceptance of this form.” (Heidi Latsky, GIMP)
Impact through dancing with SDT Caroline has an interesting role in that she is not solely a dancer within SDT– she is Dance Agent for Change. She dances with the company and also undertakes the other duties inherent with her post. This has led to a series of interesting conversations about taking class with the company dancers. Caroline’s dual role is complex and means that she can attend class some of the time but not all of the time, This is not unique within the company, and other individuals also hold dual roles and need to balance their time and timetables accordingly. It’s a hard balance to call – more time in class would mean less time elsewhere and less initiatives being developed. For some of the SDT dancers, the idea of having Caroline, and other disabled artists, spending more time training with the company is seen as beneficial – both for the development of the company and for them as individuals. 7
“I think more time spent with us on tour, doing workshops with the company dancers, adapting some rep for her will only help reach more people. Dance/Art is a mirror often to society and if that reflection is always fit, young, able and normal... then not only is that reflection boring but inaccurate.” (Toby Fitzgibbons, SDT) “I must admit that I have been confused until recently about exactly what the DAFC’s role within the company was. I can see that she is constantly torn with her time to fulfill many roles, and complete her work outside of SDT, and that her main focus with SDT is clearly on outreach and education, and so the time that we spend with Caroline in the studio has been limited to occasional classes, and more recently working with her on NQR. On each of these occasions it is a pleasure and a joy to have her around, but it feels as though the lack of consistent contact hinders the opportunity to for us all to physically challenge ourselves and Caroline, to push boundaries, and to discover the movement possibilities of working together… I feel that if she, or other disabled artists, were able to spend more time in training with the company then we would seriously be able to move forward in this aspect of our work – But is this a priority, or in her job description?” (James MacGillivray, SDT) “As a performer and artist Caroline has a direct impact on the members of the company and on the audience who sees our shows. Sharing training as a dancer with her, having to teach a class where she takes part, working with her in the creative process of NQR and The Long and the Short of It. All this has enriched my knowledge as a dancer (and as a human being). Although I had been dancing for seven years as a professional in several companies across Europe, this is the first time that I could experience all this.” (Joan Lopez-Cleville, SDT) Solene Weinachter, who dances with SDT and has just completed an MA in inclusive dance, feels strongly that NOT training with disabled dancers through her own dance training has been disabling: I feel that not training and dancing with disabled dancers is something that disables me in the studio, particularly in création periods when I am asked to create something with a dancer who has a different physicality than the one I always have been surrounded by (at the conservatoire). It feels that a lot of the focus is about trying to find inclusion in terms of making a system accessible to disabled dancers but it feels that this will struggle to happen as long as non disabled dancers won’t themself be able to adapt to different physicality, be creative with ANY body. (Solene Weinachter, SDT) She feels that the impact of the Dance Agent for Change post on the aesthetic of the company and it’s training has been limited. “To be completely honest in terms of ‘dance agent for change’ in the heart of the dance company, I don’t see her direct impact. I mean that we keep on training in the same way, we made work that happened to have two disabled dancers in them but I don’t think it is something that provoked that much of an aesthetic change in the company. So for me caroline is dance agent for political change more than a dance agent for artistic change.” (Solene Weinachter, SDT) The post did not set out to make an impact on the aesthetics of the company, or to change or challenge the way in which the company works. It is more of an exploration, the
continuation of a journey examining various possibilities, thoughts and potentials. James Brining, Artistic Director of Dundee Rep described it as follows: “I regard [the Dance Agent for Change’s] involvement with the company as representing a continuum relating to Janet's practice as an artist and the questions she (and the company) have been pursuing over a much longer period of time.. The impact is felt in many ways including the highly practical issues around touring, to those around marketing and communications to what's actually presented on the stage. In my view, SDT has always been at or near the cutting edge of this practice since I've known the company, but Caroline being here has enabled SDT to realise and act on many more areas of the broader equalities agenda than would otherwise have been possible. I feel safe in saying that SDT is leading the way in this field by a considerable distance, certainly in the Scottish context.” (James Brining, Dundee Rep). And the change within the Rep has begun to be noticed by others: “I have certainly noticed things changing all around Caroline. If I need to take my trolley of props ,machines and CDs around I now have easy access wherever Caroline has been. In fact I think everyone should try wheeling a heavy trolley around to see how hard this can be!! The latest addition of easy access doors at the rep is great. As I said before, I feel the audiences at Dundee Rep are opening their minds about the expectations they have when they go to a theatre/ dance show.” (Tricia Anderson) Through dancing with SDT, the impact of the Dance Agent for Change extends into the bodies and minds of the other SDT dancers, and their own development of dance practice. “Caroline in particular made me realise that the cotton wool approach is completely the opposite of what 'inclusive' is about. "I'm here and able and different but so are you!" She still I know has this effect on people. Dance should be about how we all move and how wonderfully different that can be. When we teach workshops our aim is not just to find the next dancer but to say 'look, you can move, look how you move'. To see Caroline teach or dance blows so many out dated ideas about what dance is or should be. But more importantly it says something about society. She makes you realise that inclusive means working to our own strengths, not lowering expectations or flattening out our difference. It matters less that she doesn't have a formal training or knowledge. Because her strengths far out weigh this”. (Toby Fitzgibbons, SDT) ”The unusual aspect of her body is striking and the body being for me the first choreographic element that the audience see, it did trigger a button that started changing my perspective on what dance is. Her physicality (in other words her body in movement) became more and more interesting to me. I don’t feel that the first piece I saw her in (Angels of Incidence) particularly made me think « ouhaou, I really like how this dancer moves » but by taking class together and watching her in The Long and the Short of It and some parts of NQR I got to know her physicality. Now I can say with confidence that it inspires me in the sense that it feeds my own work in class (like any of my colleagues do). Moreover, it provokes my thoughts on how as a non disabled dancer I would cover her. What it is about her movement that matters.” (Solene Weinachter, SDT) There is perhaps much rich ground here to explore further through the remainder of the post. There aren’t any right or wrong answers here – just a myriad possibilities. As far as I am aware, there has never been an opportunity before to explore the many facets of this in any detail within the UK or internationally – the situation is so rare. 9
Creative learning The Dance Agent for Change post also works with SDT’s Creative Learning programme, delivering a wide range of practical work in Dundee, throughout Scotland, nationally and internationally. When the role first began, Caroline was involved in the direct delivery of workshops under the dance agent for change ‘banner’ and now the work has evolved to be an integrated part of SDT provision, often with Caroline in an advisory or stimulatory role. An example of this is the weekly class at The Rep called ‘Do Your Thing’ at which a small group of people of various ages with and without physical impairments, meet to dance. Caroline initiated the group and has worked with local community dance tutors Tricia Anderson and Lisa Crabb through a short project with Perth and Kinross Council (PKC) Tricia is now able to cover sessions at The Rep. The DYT group are going to give their first public performance at the Great Big Dance Show at The Rep in October. Caroline was part of the teaching team that worked with over 600 local primary school students and performed as part of the Are Ya Dancing? Festival in September (an Events Scotland project with links to the Commonwealth Games Handover). This cascading of skills means that the impact of the post can be both widened and become more sustainable. For example, Tricia and Lisa also both teach short projects for disabled and non-disabled people, as reliant on small pots of funding offered by PKC. By taking the work from being labelled as ‘dance agent for change’ activity and kneading it back into the mainstream of SDT’s core work, the company is also embedding the impact as well as maximising Caroline’s time. For example, in 2009, Caroline ran a fruitful project for Kingspark School for children and young people with additional support needs. This year, Caroline did not go back, instead other SDT Creative Learning staff returned with 13 of their Youth Dance Company to perform and dance together with many of the young people, which was a great success. This also ensures that other SDT staff and dancers have the opportunity to develop and deliver inclusive practice, demystifying it and removing the often perceived need for ‘experts’. As part of pushing this way of working out, Caroline will offer 3 more CPD sessions in Dundee in 2010; two for school teachers and one for Dance Artists in Residence and more CPD will be planned for 2011 – 12. There have been a number of workshops and performances with Perth College following the same approach. The challenge again is to get the balance right – how much input, at what level, with whom and for how long? “The Dance Agent for Change has certainly made an impact in P&K. I understand her role to be to challenge assumptions about who can dance and attitudes to disability. We have worked together to do this in P&K with some success. Caroline’s input got us started and Dawn Hartley is now continuing the role of mentor for our 2 dance tutors. We are off to a good start but still have a long way to go. Its not easy for us to reach a wide spectrum of local people…I feel we have opened a door but there is no quick fix. We need to be able to sustain access to inclusive dance for future generations and there’s a limit to our local resources to challenge perceptions that are already ingrained. Ideally we need more Caroline’s out there! Our next plan is to roll out a series of taster activities – this will include dance and discussion led by our local staff. I feel there is so much we still need to do here which makes it impossible to know where to focus. Should she spread herself
thinly and act as a catalyst for others to take forwards the work? Or work intensely with a few geographic areas?” Liz Conacher, Arts Development Officer, Perth This question is echoed within the education and outreach work of the company as a whole (and that of many other companies and performers) – how should one balance local, regional, national and international work? All are important, all bring different benefits and all take time. The Dance Agent for Change post has been integrated into all aspects of SDT’s work, including international touring. In November, 2009, Caroline took part in SDT’s tour to China, supported by the British Council. This included her involvement in both mainstream education work with the company and a three day workshop and lecture demonstration programme in Guangzhou on Creative Dance and Diversity: teaching creative dance inclusively. In this, SDT stamped their commitment to inclusion firmly on the world map. The materials included the following: Scottish Dance Theatre's Education Programme aims to make dance accessible as widely as possible and to engage people in exploring and celebrating their own creativity. Everyone can dance and everyone can be creative … we aim to share our approach with teachers and practitioners who are working or wish to work inclusively with people with physical disability … This workshop programme will be led by Janet Smith and Caroline Bowditch, with input from 2 SDT dancers. The company will share its educational philosophy and practice in integrated creative dance that includes disabled and non-disabled participants. The work in China was personally challenging for Caroline and the rest of the company – a true culture shock. Caroline described it in her blog as: ‘China was amazing, generous, terrifying (mostly the traffic I must say), frustrating, smoggy, warm and cold, controlled, censored, humbling and full (VERY full) of incredible and fascinating people’. “The work she did with SDT in China truly did appear to break ground. It was inevitably because she was disabled that her impact as DAFC could be so immediate. I admire her confidence and courage to present some challenging ideas and questions to a very backward thinking society, and I admire everyone at SDT for sticking with Janet’s vision to complete the task.” (James MacGillivray, SDT) Impact is not only about size and exposure. The impact of the Dance Agent for Change post on one disabled person who feels that they now have a right to dance, or one teacher, who now feels more confident about enabling a wider range of people to fully engage is just as profound as promoting the legacy of SDT’s international engagement. And there are many examples of the smaller moments, evidence of how, by simply getting on with her delivery, Caroline is changing the way people think about disability, dance and inclusion. “Just a quick note to say that Caroline was fantastic. I attended a small workshop of about 6 people and she was very good at leading you in gently, taking away your inhibitions and helping us to create amazing dance pieces. I had not danced like that since I was a teenager. I’m now mid 40’s and I didn’t know anyone any else in the group. …. her energy and inspiration are infectious.” (Jo Aitken, Lecturer Learning Support, Elmwood College) “I have witnessed caroline teaching in the canteen of a secondary school in front of the rest of the school because it happened the dance studio was not accessible and it was 11
break time. Disability has never been mentioned, the workshop was all about the actual choreographic work ... For me this day was the perfect example of how her work and her presence is crucial because those kids were completely with her and that was all. For me this was the ultimate achievment of having Caroline in SDT. Her presence was taken for granted by everyone.” (Solene Weinachter, SDT) This quiet acceptance is certainly Caroline’s vision of the ideal future. At a recent Open Space event, I overheard her describing her vision for the cultural shift that the Dance Agent for Change post is working towards – for her it is simply about achieving a degree of normality, where it ceases to be surprising or unusual to have a disabled dancer, choreographer, workshop leader, participant and so on. For me, this links back to the audience comment mentioned previously, about NQR reminding us we are all people, first and foremost, before we start to impose categories, labels and boxes. “How great it is to be inclusive in our educational work in this day and age when everything is standard, when everything is about how much things cost rather than what it costs us as humans without this contact with people that are so different from ourselves but share a common bond?” (Toby Fitzgibbons, SDT) How can the Dance Agent for Change role best empower other dancers, workshop leaders, teachers to take on inclusive practice? Of course, Caroline can lead workshops and cpd sessions, and pass on her knowledge, skills and experience directly to others, through sessions such as the planned Techniques and Tips sessions 1 . Equally, all the dancers within SDT are learning from their experiences with Caroline and embedding this in their practice, maximizing the impact and legacy, not only within SDT but within the wider dance sector. However, there is a feeling that feeling confident and equipped to teach inclusively may be harder to deliver than to dance with disabled dancers within the company: “Before I met Caroline I didn’t really know anything about inclusive teaching and I would have probably panicked if I would have had to teach a person with any kind of disability. Now I’d know how to approach it because I have become familiar with it by watching Caroline teach and take part in our trainings. But, on the other hand, I feel that I’m still lacking the concrete knowledge in order to teach inclusively. I don’t expect Caroline to be a master in everything and to teach me such a difficult thing, but maybe she could organise some kind of course with experts on this subject, who could give me lots of information.” (Joan Lopez-Cleville, SDT) As mentioned previously, within the second phase of the Dance Agent for Change programme, a resource on delivering inclusive practice is planned, and there are many further opportunities for direct contact between Caroline and other dancers and practitioners to stretch their knowledge and skills. ‘Inclusive dance’ isn’t a fixed and finite thing – everyone in the field is still learning to an extent as the process itself isn’t a fixed one – how could it be when no two bodies are the same? For one dancer, the best way to develop the confidence and skills required is through including more disabled dancers within the professional training of the company. 1 an opportunity for people to attend the ‘Do your Thing’ session and then have a practical follow on session to get into ‘the nuts and bolts’ of ways they can make their teaching practice accessible to as many participants as possible. 12
“I feel that we (SDT) have only just begun to scrape the surface of inclusive dance training. If we truly want disabled artists to be accepted into the mainstream then I feel that we need to invest more into training at a professional level. This involves finding out for ourselves how to put together a class that meets the needs of all dancers, presenting guest teachers with the challenge of adapting/pitching their class towards inclusivity, regularly working with disabled dancers at a professional level, and recording our findings that we can begin to share and archive our experiences – providing a valuable resource for training institutions that might want to open their doors to disabled dancers.” (James MacGillivray, SDT) Before the Dance Agent for Change post was developed, I heard Janet Smith describing the journey to working inclusively as crossing a bridge – before she gained her own sense of confidence in the work, she viewed it as something happening on a island – something difficult, challenging, other, that needed ‘experts’. Once she had crossed the bridge and begun working in that way her perspective shifted – she saw that she already had the skills she needed – that working with a disabled dancer is fundamentally the same process of exploration as working with any dancer. How best to bring others over the bridge?
Strategic Development and Research The wider role Taking on the questions such as ‘who can dance?’ and ‘how to create a cultural shift to ensure inclusion within dance training’ is no small undertaking. As well as direct work with agencies and organisations in Scotland, the Dance Agent for Change post has formed an alliance with Candoco, specifically with Luke Pell, Head of Learning and Development and during time together in Dublin, Caroline and Luke were able to discuss some of the underpinning constraints upon the work they both do: “We talked about the breadth of the sector and the nuances of the work within it. We talked about how important it is that each nuance is understood as valid and that their distinction is understood. Those distinctions need to be made visible for the wider sector – they are in mainstream dance – you have community work, independent artists, site specific work, work by solo makers and so on. When it comes to disability or inclusive work, we all get put in together and judged on that criteria rather than the different mediums people work in or the different audiences we want to try and reach. As well as whether there is an interest in disability led or other social or political stuff – not the other artistic criteria. (Luke Pell, Candoco) Both Caroline and Luke (and therefore both SDT and Candoco) recognize that they are caught in a cycle of continually saying ‘somebody needs to do something’ and knowing that often there is just an echo in reply. For both, there is a limit to what they can personally take on – individually within their workloads and through the wider mechanisms of the companies in which they are embedded. Both are engaged in asking provocative questions to those involved in the systems embedded in dance – such as why are there still so few professional, trained disabled dancers - yet response, and indeed change, often appears either extremely slow or non existent within the sector as a whole. All those involved in the Dance Agent for Change post know that change is necessary and that everyone involved in the dance sector (and more widely in the arts, culture, training 13
and education sectors) have each to play our part. If the aim is to ensure that disabled people are represented within all areas of the dance profession - as dancers, choreographers, teachers, students, participants - there is still a long way to go. Within the sector as a whole change is happening – and in some areas happening quickly. In others, such as the numbers of disabled people within the professional dance training, change appears slower. The Dance Agent for Change post is ensuring that – within SDT and Dundee Rep – change is happening as fast as it can. For example, SDT CL now has a regular class for people who do and who don’t use wheelchairs working together and a greater understanding of how to encourage more integration, SDT has introduced BSL at SDT Interactives and post and pre show discussions, is developing Audio Description and is happy to look at all other possible ways of maximizing access, including Touch Tours, Dundee Rep has updated Studio 3 to ensure it is accessible, all the building’s access niggles have been or are being addressed, an access policy is drafted… James Brining, the Artistic Director of the Rep describes the impact Caroline has had across the Rep as a whole as follows: “Some of the changes within the Rep have been in the physical infrastructure, some in less tangible ways, such as how we're thinking about our audience and the kind of work we intend to produce or promote. She has also influenced the thinking of the board. I know that having Caroline here has accelerated the rate of change considerably in terms of the Rep's overall engagement with issues around Equalities.” (James Brining, Dundee Rep) As Dance Agent for Change, Caroline aims to influence and have impact outside of her immediate situation, so therefore has had to through why (generally) change is happening so slowly. Is it that some people are resistant to change? Is it that some people genuinely haven’t thought about the impact of involving disabled people fully in dance? If so, why has it missed them and yet reached others? Is it because they don’t want to think about it as it challenges their known map of the world and their practice? Is it because they are scared of it, find it intimidating, are ignorant about it or simply find it distasteful? Is it that they feel it’s someone else’s responsibility, and removed from their own? Perhaps only by understanding the root causes of the lack of action can the right triggers be discovered to provoke action. If everyone is committed to change, what then is holding back a more rapid progress within the dance sector as a whole? “In terms of what needs to happen next to develop inclusion further… I am also slightly confused as to what the barriers really are. At the recent Devil’s Advocate Conference in Edinburgh I found myself in a room full of so called ‘provocateurs’ and industry leaders, funders and artists, and I only heard positive ideas and feedback. I don’t know who or what is really holding back the progression of inclusive practice. Is it the funding bodies, the presenters, the training institutes, the public?” (James MacGillivray, SDT)
Another option for maximizing change is to look at where each individual is most effective, and see how this can be best utilized. Caroline’s bubbly personality has been discussed previously – how to ensure this has a legacy, an impact beyond the immediate? Caroline connects with people: “My initial impression was of a direct, honest and confident person who is able to adapt her approach and discourse in pursuit of a simple aim - that of addressing issues of equality in 14
society in general and the performing arts more specifically… Her positivity and charm are hugely infectious and can be very powerful. For me, her physicality is secondary to the authority with which she talks about the sector and her own experiences as a wheelchair user. Her confidence and positivity combined with her lived experience make for a pretty formidable combination”. (James Brining, Dundee Rep) “People respond to Caroline – there has been this spark, awareness arisen, she has made things visible. The role has brought issues to the foreground and has engaged people who might have not been engaged before. It has allowed voices to be heard – audience voices, people within the sector. We all experience that it’s really tricky to go beyond that. What is the next stage in developing a role like that, or in those forums or discussions? How does one steer or interject or intervene so that things can go forwards… important that we air those voices, but then what?” (Luke Pell, Candoco) The question now, for the next two years, is how to maximize the potential of these connections and push them forwards to make positive change happen? How can Caroline’s charisma be harnessed to follow a strategic plan, move towards specific outcomes? Equally, what other support and skills does she need to develop this side of her role further? There is a concern that the number of different elements present within her current portfolio may be hard to balance. “In my eyes Caroline’s job covers a very vast ground. Her presence in SDT expand between the studio (and the stage), to the education work and the office. So I think at the moment caroline juggles with different positions to fulfill. ” (Solene Weinachter, SDT) “My fear would be that she is a terrific artist, as well as motivator and politician and that if her agenda or remit is required to be too broad she may not feel able to engage in all the ways which are important to her as an artist/teacher/agent for change. So I suppose I'm saying she (and / or SDT) need to be supported so she can continue driving the changes within SDT / the Rep / the wider community, ‘cos there's only so much one person can do!” (James Brining, Dundee Rep) “My image of Caroline is this very bright, piercing light shining through her eyes - I think it is a sign of great intelligence and a willingness to be open and available. In my limited experience, these qualities are key to accomplish what I think needs to be done to further inclusion in the world at large.” (Heidi Latsky, GIMP) Perhaps part of the answer to that is clarity. The post began with a wide brief and as it progresses, this has begun to become more focused. The clearer the defined remit for the Dance Agent for Change post, the clearer the possible partners and allies become. As Luke Pell went on to say: “Caroline is experiencing the expectations of everyone, and I share that. We are the visible people so there is an expectation on us to do everything – we need to get better at saying no, its not what we do – we just can’t do it all. We can be more useful if we are really clear about what we are doing – there is so much here that needs doing”. (Luke Pell, Candoco) Its not about the post having to deliver on all fronts, more about selecting the specific outcomes the post will focus on achieving for the remaining duration – looking for depth rather than breadth – and then locating who might step up or step into leading the other areas of work.
“My feeling is that after producing all this valuable discussion, it would be time for Caroline (and in general for the disabled artists’ community) to get more concrete and develop actions that lead to the achievement of their goals. I am aware that this is not an easy task, and that it isn’t necessarily the role of Caroline to make the practical research or work, but maybe she could help finding the right people and resources and putting in contact the different interested parts.” (Joan Lopez-Cleville, SDT) Although the work plan for Caroline’s role has been determined, there is perhaps a need to focus more on outcomes at this stage. At the beginning of the post, it was essential that the role was almost infinite in relation to where it could extend, what it could cover. Two years in, it needs to be sharper capturing what will stay when she goes and marking what has fundamentally shifted. This is about turning the firework into a scalpel – just as bright, just as profound in what it can achieve, but more precise and ultimately, able to make more of a difference.
Networks, boundaries and variety The Creative Thinking Network and the other less formal networks Caroline has in place should be a key part of stretching the thinking around the post and infiltrating elements into the wider sector. They should be engaging a wide range of people, and aligning them to the programme, its aims and harnessing their support to achieve the outcomes required by the project. As yet, the Creative Thinking Network meetings have yet to fully take on this function. I have been present at three, each of which could have benefited from a wider range of people present although the level of discussion and debate at each was useful and interesting. These meetings need to be more focused and the meetings planned for. People attending will need to feel vital and useful, even possibly be cajoled into attending. They need to have pre-warning of sessions, be reminded of the dates, sent informative agendas and information on who else is attending and sessions need to be followed up in some way to enable people to see the benefit of attending. Its clear that Caroline wishes to formalise the sessions, and a recent email listed the following subjects and dates and was sent to eight individuals. 2010
16th August - Excellence, Edinburgh – tied in with the Devil’s Advocate seminar 12-2, Fringe Hub, Edinburgh November - Internationalism , Glasgow – connected with DADA Fest activity that will be happening in Glasgow 2011 February - Continuing Professional Development and Industry Resourcing, Dundee – this will be opening week of the new SDT show so it is hoped that many of you will stay to see the show May - Training Disabled Dancers, Edinburgh or Glasgow – connected to the work that is planned to take place with dance training provider next year August - Making dance accessible to everyone, Glasgow or Edinburgh – possibly tied in with a larger CPD event for those teaching dance November - Documenting our work, Dundee – connected with the launch of some of resource (hardcopy/online or both) that will gather all that has been learnt 16
February - Where to next? Dundee, Glasgow or Edinburgh – a final coming together before the conclusion of my post, which will be an opportunity to discuss and prioritize what happens next. Thought needs to be given to using these meetings strategically to achieve impact, not just as a way of supporting Caroline – perhaps a different online forum could be used for this purpose if it is required (such as a closed Facebook group where those invited in could share information and discussion). Perhaps the Network meetings could involve more guest speakers or informed debates and the content of discussions also be shared through other mechanisms? As well as the Creative Thinking Network, the Creative Learning teams practical work in Dundee that involved Caroline must be enabling a local network to be developed, linking those involved in inclusive practice. I’m interested in how this informal collection of people and groups will be developed and sustained over the next two years, how it can feed into the Creative Thinking Network and project reflections and ultimately how it can be both maintained and sustained after the end of Caroline’s post. Strategically, SDT might wish to consider the reach they wish the post to have in relation to geography - what are the shifts they wish to see close to home (within SDT/Dundee Rep and within Dundee as a whole, within Scotland and then further afield – within the UK and Internationally. Equally, what are the priorities for SDT in relation to the impact of the programme – is it about professional dev of disabled performers? Or is it about shifts in the mainstream? Janet Smith has identified three core areas of focus for the post: access to dance training 2 , developing inclusion within SDT facilitation practice and research and development into SDTs future work for children, to help ensure that inclusivity and diversity are considered from the outset. Each of these elements needs to be held in balance – in relation to the resources allocated to them and key outcomes need to be linked to them – why these? What is the aim to achieve? It is known from the first two years that there is a desire to want to do everything, please everyone, and yet this is simply not possible. The workload for the post has to be determined strategically, and within that then also to provide variety, stimulation and interest for the post holder. To change the dance sector can be likened to chipping away at a brick wall – it only crumbles slowly. If that was all Caroline had to focus upon, she would quickly (like anyone) become de-motivated, frustrated and disappointed. There needs to be other elements 2 plans re further and Higher Education start with workshops and feedback sessions with students and staff at Telford College, Edinburgh and SSofCD at The Space, Dundee, both of which offer FE qualifications and dance BAs. In 2011 these colleges will be invited to attend and possibly contribute to a Symposium, which would be a culminating outcome for at the DAFC post in terms of dissemination. At the Symposium the DAFC would share research outcomes undertaken with SDT on adaptations/reinterpretations of choreography by differently-abled performers and how this affects the reading of movement and meaning. 17
within her role to provide dynamic, fast past change and rewards, to show positive elements that are in place and celebrate those involved. Disabled Artists Residency The initial residency, and the planned international one, falls into the research element of the DA4C post, and also into the area of work that might be seen as most immediately fulfilling and gratifying. The initial residency was deliberately open – open to those with a range of experience, with different artform backgrounds, with different impairments and access requirements. It was also open in relation to focus, with a template structure that could be amended daily, and no requirement to create work or have a ‘product’ at the end. It included opportunities for the disabled artists to work in isolation and also to share their practice, for example through the Artists Presentation event that was held at The Space as part of the residency. Approx 60 students attended this, 25 of whom also attended the Master classes that were held the following evening, where some of the artists led practical sessions for students. In an interview with Rachel Bagshaw, Graeae, she commented on the openness with positivity – feeling it created a safe, supported space where the artists could challenge themselves and each other, without the additional pressure created by meeting additional targets. “It was a really challenging week for me personally. Caroline was just brilliant at creating that kind of space where those challenges could come up and be acknowledged and discussed in a very open and non judgmental way. I think [Caroline] is quite an extraordinary person”. (Rachel Bagshaw, Graeae). Although the range of impairments, and therefore access needs, varied widely, most of those attending perceived this as a positive, forcing the artists to challenge their own prejudices and barriers to inclusion. The decision however to allow some artists to attend for some of the time, rather than the whole residency, was seen as more problematic as the dynamics in the group had to keep adjusting in response. Impact of the residency The impact of the residency was different on each of the disabled artists attending. Whilst some were disappointed not to make more direct work connections through the opportunity (or to make work in the residency that might lead on to future work opportunities), for two of those who attended, the impact has been profound. Claire Cunningham is on a stellar trajectory at present, with her double bill ME (Mobile/Evolution) returning from a European tour. The residency gave her an opportunity to try something different – the chance to pilot a workshop using crutches as tools of balance and exploration for everyone. For Claire, the chance to plan, deliver and evaluate a practical session with her peers was invaluable, and Claire has gone on to deliver similar work with Candoco’s dancers in London in preparation for her involvement in their Unlimited Commission for London 2012, which has been described by Steve Mannix, Cultural Programme Advisor, Culture, Ceremonies and Education, London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Ltd as being symbolic of what
London 2012 are trying to achieve 3 . Claire had the opportunity to plan her session with others and then to deliver it. It might have been useful to have enabled all those attending to have taken a more active role in the session delivery, to have enabled team teaching and therefore potentially greater shared learning and reflection across the different levels of experience. People could have been matched up prior to the residency to begin exploring ideas and routes which then could have developed more during the residency itself. Rachel Bagshaw is the other attendee on whom the residency is known to have had a profound impact. The residency provided a space for Rachel to examine her own relation to her impairment – although she didn’t arrive with this intension. Rachel had been studying dance at college when she gained her impairment, and had then chosen to switch disciplines believing dance to now be inaccessible to her (a belief backed up by tutors, family and friends at the time). Until the residency, Rachel had not really unpacked the emotional impact of this decision, or acknowledged that it indeed had had one. “I had an emotional week. I had been training as a dancer and was doing a performing arts degree when I became injured. I stopped dancing because I became disabled. I changed degrees, I moved away from and I hadn’t prepared myself for that at all in going to Dundee I hadn’t thought of the impact on me. I found it very difficult at times in terms of seeing myself in a dance context and having an amazing time, thinking why did I stop this and trying to reconcile this”. (Rachel Bagshaw, Graeae) In some ways, this strikes to the heart of the DA4C post – if this situation repeated itself in Dundee in 2010, would the same, almost automatic, choice be made? What about else where within Scotland? Within the UK? If someone like Rachel had seen someone like Caroline dance, or lead workshops, or present on dance based material, would her own sense of what might be possible be expanded? In the early summer of 2010, Rachel was directing a humorous dance piece for Graeae – the Rhinestone Rollers (line dancing for wheelchair users). On the day of the performance, one individual was too ill to perform. Rachel took their place. Without her experiences within the Disabled Artists Residency, Rachel is adamant that this would not have occurred. Her sense of self has now expanded so she can view herself as someone who is ‘allowed’ to dance, who can make active choices around her direct involvement with dance. Other impacts for Rachel include having: Dance Company’s commission is called Candoco Unlimited. Candoco performed in the handover ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Games – the first time disabled performers have appeared in both events. Candoco Unlimited will build on their reputation as leaders in the dance and disability field to showcase some of the leading disabled artists working in contemporary dance today. Candoco will engage two disabled choreographers, ironically both from Scotland and both connected to SDT, to each make a large scale dance piece for disabled and non-disabled dancers, including those from Beijing and Rio de Janeiro to link the past, current and future Olympic host nations. This will result in two world-class inclusive dance pieces that will be performed at a range of festivals and events leading up to 2012. Claire is one of those choreographers, and Marc Brew is the other. 3 Candoco
authored an article on pain and leadership for Sync directly reflecting on her thoughts during the residency recognized her own level of experience in relation to leading education workshops formalized a link between Dundee Rep and Graeae explored more fully her own perspective on working in mainstream, inclusive and separatist environments and the ways in which she can behave in each situation.
“I trained in a non disabled environment, my whole experience, bar my current work with Graeae, has been in non disabled environments, I think part of that is that I have spent a long time projecting positivity. That week gave me an opportunity to admit my feelings, permission to take my brave face off, being able to take off the happy, positive mask and own a more realistic, authentic feelings. I think lots of disabled people struggle with this generally – where do I fit? How am I allowed to behave? This was all tied up for me in the workshop.” (Rachel Bagshaw, Graeae) Taking the residency concept forwards There are many potential lessons from the first residency that could move forwards into the development of the proposed second international residency. It may be useful to maintain the sense of openness and security that was created, to maintain the variety of those present in terms of experience, impairment, artform and levels of artistic quality. If there are areas to tighten, these might be in relation to ensuring that all involved are present for the whole time, ensuring all involved have an opportunity to team teach, clarifying the role of non-disabled people involved in the residency, and ensuring that other SDT staff are present within the residency format. SDT and Dundee Rep Rachel Bagshaw’s biggest criticism of the residency was in relation to its involvement with SDT. She felt there was a need for the disabled artists to be much more ‘met’ by the company as a whole – she felt slightly marginalized and sidelined. “We needed to interact with the company more, even if we had done class together once, that would have helped. They were in rehearsals at the time, which didn’t help. Its like there were two rooms, them and us. And we had been invited by SDT but they didn’t really have any relationship with us. They came and said hello, that was it. We needed that sharing. As the residency was very open and unfixed, there was a real danger of being so open we were ignored. We needed a much more formal exchange. There was our showing of work, but not many people came. Those that did come from SDT, like Solene, came as they had a personal interest. Solene is writing an MA on inclusive practice so she came, but almost as an individual, not a part of SDT”. (Rachel Bagshaw, Graeae) This was not the intention. For the initial residency, Caroline’s desire to ensure it was disabled people only precluded Janet Smith and others from within the SDT team having a more direct role in delivery although a significant number were able to attend the sharing and discussion event at the Space. It was seen as important to create a safe, confidential space for the disabled artists to work. The timing was also complex, as there were competing demands on many SDT staff during that week which meant fewer staff could attend the more public elements. During this third year of the programme, there is a clear desire to integrate Caroline’s work more profoundly into the work of the company and for Caroline to integrate more into the 20
work of SDT. This again will take energy and commitment from the whole team, and there is a clear willingness to do so on all sides. It will also mean progressing more slowly, as it’s a longer process to all equally and fully engage and truly move forwards together. Progress may be slower, but the impact will be more heartfelt and longer lasting as this is the only way to embed change within the company as a whole, rather than just within the additional practice created by the DA4C post.
Dissemination and Advocacy The final area of the Dance Agent for Change post to comment on is in relation to dissemination and advocacy – provoking discussion and debate and making sure the impact of the post resonates widely. Caroline presents… In the next two years, in addition to speaking at many events and seminars, Caroline is hosting some of her own – called Devil’s Advocate. The first of these takes place within the Fringe as part of the Made in Scotland event, and is focusing on quality, through the provocative by line: Are Disabled Artists Capable of Excellence? The seminar is described as being ‘about firing up, challenging and shifting our thinking around disabled people in dance. The aim is to give space to real discussions about integrated and inclusive dance, addressing some of the myths and the facts. Chaired by Caroline, with guest provocateurs including Janet Smith and attended by all SDT dancers, SDT CL team and other staff it will focus on the potential of programming integrated dance. So, love it or hate it come and get involved!’ Caroline has an excellent pedigree at public speaking “I found Caroline Bowditch inspirational, and she made a vital contribution to our “Many Bodies of Contemporary Dance” Symposium, which was run by Gradcam with the Dublin Dance Festival, at Dance House on May 19th. Caroline, in her upbeat, positive, and goahead demeanor, challenges all preconceived notions of people with disabilities. She oozes confidence, is trendy, and has a great sense of humour. She is generally great to be around, and really listened and responded to the other people on the panel on May 19th, formulating and articulating her own well thought-out views. We were very lucky to have Caroline on the panel. I knew since interviewing her for the “Dance on the Box” blog in 2008 that she would be the dream person to have on our panel – and I was proven correct about that.” (Deirdre Mulrooney) “Caroline has established herself as an important speaker in the inclusive dance community. Her series of talks “The Devil’s Advocate” is a good proof of that, managing to get together prominent figures of the inclusive dance scene in the UK to discuss about certain topics. Her appearances on the media have surely helped to draw the attention of the general public to the subject of disabled artists. Again, I think that one of Caroline’s strongest points is her ability as a communicator”. (Joan Lopez-Cleville, SDT) “She ran my post performance discussion and I was impressed by how articulate she was and how informed. I think she is fab! … she did have a an initial impact on me as a very dynamic, sharp and committed person and someone I would very much like to work with more in the future”. (Heidi Latsky, GIMP)
It seems like a natural evolution for her to move from speaking at events to chairing them, and one that is in line with what is needed – as chair, Caroline will be in the perfect position to (charmingly and with charisma) push people forwards through debate into action. Caroline does not just advocate on the bigger picture, but also on the post itself: “We found it very helpful, and good timing to have Caroline come to talk with the dance sector here in Wales about the work she is doing as “Dance Agent for Change”. The timing for us was particularly good, as we had just commissioned a piece of Dance and Disability research to inform our gaps in provision, and lead us to do a mapping here in Wales, in order to help us get an overview, and to see what we have to do next in terms of developing new initiatives for Dance and Disability in Wales. I know she is coming back again, to do another talk to a small focus group, which may prove helpful again, to help the group with fresh ideas, and how to take initiatives forward. There may be a possibility of using Caroline as a consultant/advisor for the future.” (Siri Wigdel, Senior Dance Officer, Arts Council Wales) The Devil’s Advocate seminars are part of a larger project in connection with the education department at Candoco called ‘Continuing the Conversation’. It is hoped that the Devil’s Advocate seminars and Candoco’s events will feed on from and inform each other. Each of the seminars is being recorded and in the hope that a highlights podcast could be developed from each session that would be placed on SDT and Candoco website so that people can feed into the conversation even if they can’t get to the events. This dissemination is critical to the events as it enables the discussions to be available to a much wider public, and to inform other events and initiatives. Website Not all of the elements mentioned above are currently featuring on the Dance Agent for Change website, although some are on the SDT site. The original concept for the DA4C site was to allow an alternative viewpoint of the programme, featuring the activities, but also capturing reflections (from Caroline and those she engaged with) – mapping the impact from the inside out and allowing the programme to resonate through the web and therefore have impact outside of its geographical confines. Since the start of 2010 (7 months), 20 blog entries have been placed on the site: In Jan, there were three: Reflections on China - taken from CC bulletin and reproduced on site Artists residency – JV authored Article in animated – JV authored There were none posted in Feb and in March, there were nine: Woo hoo – news from Amanda Chinn re the extension grant SDT sell out in London – JV authored Feed back on NQR – JV authored On the road again – tour begins – CB authored Gathering thoughts – CB authored We are putting it out there CB authored How will we know when we’ve got there? – CB authored One city many discoveries – CB authored 22
China summary – CB authored In April, there were three: Bowditch and Brew team up – CB authored 15 down, 26 to go – CB authored Oh won’t you stay … CB authored In June, there were four: Posture and Wheeled mobility conference – CB authored 3 guest blogs from placement at SDT, which were not really linked specifically to DA4C. There have been none posted in July or August. It was suggested in early spring 2010 that the site be moved to within the SDT site, which would enable a greater degree of control over content for Caroline and the SDT marketing team without the barrier of a third party. In order to perform its legacy function, it would need to remain a reflective space however, and not purely become another marketing tool. If the impact of the Dance Agent for Change post is to extend out of those in immediate contact with it, it is essential that a successful way of regular reporting on the web is created. The work exists in a particular space and time, and there are those world wide engaged in similar work who can be inspired and informed by the work emanating from the post. This could involve the existing site being placed under Caroline’s direct control, copying the site to SDT’s own site, nominating someone else at SDT to manage site content… there are numerous possibilities depending on capacity. In a way, the lack of usage of the site mirrors the lack of usage of the Creative Network meetings. In order for these both to fully deliver, they need a greater status – they need more energy and commitment given to them to fully thrive.
Summary and conclusions So SDT’s Dance Agent for Change - how to summarize the impact to date and suggest options for improvement? Firstly, it important to remember just how unique this post is. In the past, disabled people have been given roles for up to 3 or even 6 months within mainstream companies, but never with the breadth of activity and influence that this post contains within it. By its very existence, this post challenges the status quo, creating waves in the dance sector within Scotland and beyond. Secondly, the post remit is broad and complex – and has to be so as so is the dance sector. The areas where impact could be profound are correspondingly wide. The three strands to the work being undertaken by the Dance Agent for Change programme constantly overlap, twist and turn binding them together and feeding each other. Can the post balance all elements? How can it best hold the tension between doing less and doing more, reaching fewer people more deeply, or having influence over larger numbers of people? For me, there are constantly questions arising. For example, Rachel Bagshaw (who attended the disabled artists residency) felt she did not have a choice ten years ago when she became disabled – she stopped training in dance. For me, the impact of the post 23
reflects how different her choice might be now if she lived in Scotland, especially if she lived in Dundee? All of the disparate elements of this post come together for me in answering that question. If Rachel had seen NQR prior to her accident, would she have retained in her mind the possibility of becoming a dancer herself? If she had taken part in a class run by SDT in which inclusive practice was the norm – would that have given her the confidence to have pushed further into training herself? If she had heard, or taken part in the debates and discussions on opening up participation, training and professional dance activities, would she have been inspired to fight for her place in the dance world? And its not just Rachel – would her choice have been different if any of her family, teachers, peers had been involved. Or if simply through accessing the web, any of them had encountered any aspect of the Dance Agent for Change programme? As yet, the programme hasn’t (knowingly) found a ‘Rachel’ – a disabled person committed to enter professional dance training, but that is not surprising. In 2010, it is heard of for disabled people to choose to train professionally in dance – heard of, but not usual. What the post is doing however, is making it more likely that to want to dance is an acceptable, more usual choice for a disabled young person. The sector has been at this point – of wanting this to be a real choice, for a while, yet there have been few breakthroughs in relation to those accessing professional training. “Dance is a bit stuck in relation to inclusion. There are really important valid contributions, people are doing great work, its good... but there is still masses of work to do – in relation to equal rights, equal access, on a moral level – there is still a massive gap that needs addressing… and in relation to artistic practice there is a massive gap in investment”. (Luke Pell, Candoco). For me, this work keeps coming back to the same point – how do you balance a programme like this when there is so much that could be done, so many threads that could be followed, so many gaps that need addressing? Where are the opportunities to make most impact within the time that remains? I believe there is a political impact from the post within the dance sector – disability dance in Scotland is seen nationally to be a leading force nationally (involving not only SDT and the Dance Agent for Change programme, but also Janice Parker’s Unlimited Commission, the work of Claire Cunningham, Marc Brew, Independance and others). It is also supporting a rippling change, coming through SDT and out into the Rep, subtly influencing both formal and informal processes. I believe this report evidences an emerging practical impact too – where others are following the lead of the programme and looking to examine their own practice and how that can become more inclusive (both inside of and outside of the company and those being mentored). This cascading model – of doing less and impacting more - can be pushed throughout the Dance Agent for Change programme to deepen the potential results. Where there are smaller elements linking with fewer people, this means they should be considered as case studies or examples – consideration should be given to how these can experiences cascade out and be used to reach more people? The Creative Thinking Network needs to be re-galvinised and tasked with this cascade too. How can the work be best shared more widely? Who can lead on some of the 24
elements emerging? For example, who can take on the issue of access to professional training and work alongside the Dance Agent for Change on this during the next few years? SDT is not a training provider per se. It is a mainstream touring dance company. And that’s what makes this programme unique – this practical link with a performing company of professional dancers. Out of all the options that are available to the company with this post, this one for me is the one where most impact could still be developed and there is a desire and willingness on the part of some of the dancers to explore this more deeply too. This work, leading into the creation of some kind of resource (and the potential to have this authored by the company as a whole is an exciting one – each commenting on their own journey and approach to the work). If one of the outcomes for the post is to increase the confidence of dance practioners in Scotland in relation to inclusive practice, then the above would be a priority for development as it could impact upon the delivery of that outcome. There are a wide range of outcomes possible – which do SDT feel are most pressing and most appropriate for the post in the next few years? The company have considered the options and perspectives within this report and are in the process of focusing on what the post can realistically achieve in the next two years while taking into account the company's vision and mission, as well as Caroline’s needs and desires. There are a number of areas which the company feels are currently outside of the reach and beyond the mission as a touring contemporary dance company – for example, to become a research lab for future integrated dance education and to undertake research for the development of a training curriculum. The company feels there are specific elements linked to adaptations of existing rep that are possible: We are proud of the contribution we have made thus far and the more contained project to investigate adaptations of sections of our rep and how this affects their reading, is a more relevant and achievable task for who we are, whilst still a big undertaking. (Amanda Chinn/Janet Smith, SDT) SDT feels that focus on outcomes as the post goes forward will be important and that concentration must be applied to following up/evaluation and documentation of projects, recognising that the reach of the project will be limited if these are not improved. The company feel that the planned Symposium, aiming to influence Scotland's FE and HE centres of dance (and possibly theatre and music education) fits well with the original driving force behind SDT's vision for the DAFC. The symposium will also invite the professional companies and venues, as potential future employers of disabled artists and therefore offer an opportunity to share outcomes from SDTs mutual research with Caroline on adaptation of movement and celebrate and simultaneously support disabled artists through platforming their work. SDT have summaried their the key SDT/Scotland focused impacts for the programme as: 1. Documentation and dissemination of the post and its key initiatives. 2. Impact on Dance Education at FE/HE to engage, inform and encourage staff and current students to participate in new ways of thinking about integrated and inclusive professional practice. (Symposium)
3. Research/training time (including documentation by interviews/videos etc) of work with SDT – integrated practice and teaching inclusively and adaptations in class/rep. Document what we can realistically do and share. They are currently assessing resource implications to ensure that these are delivered in such a way that ensures impact beyond the post to further the company's own development and maximize the contribution SDT can make to the development of the art form in Scotland and beyond. SDT have been radical in their approach – and now other organisations need to be inspired to continue this journey alongside them. We are delighted SDT is able to play a significant role on the way towards a more naturally integrated arts world. Equally we accept there is only so much we can do and that integration is not our sole mission. We hope that, beyond the DAFC we will find more organisations, artists and other key individuals open to more integrated practice and learning opportunities and that Caroline's role is a successful model that can be taken up elsewhere. (Amanda Chinn/Janet Smith, SDT) Jo Verrent (5th October 2010)
Impact Report for Caroline Bowditch's role as Scottish Dance Theatre's Dance Agent for Change. Written by Jo Verrent for Scottish Dance Thea...
Published on Nov 16, 2010
Impact Report for Caroline Bowditch's role as Scottish Dance Theatre's Dance Agent for Change. Written by Jo Verrent for Scottish Dance Thea...