DAN.ce AcCEssibility INclusion (DAN.CE IN) is shattering the concept of limits.

Professional dancers, instructors, social workers and functionally diverse people from Spain, Italy and the UK are collaborating to create work that encourages equal opportunities through the joy of movement.

The first conference took place in Alicante, Spain, Monday 15-Thursday 18 April; and included members of The Garage, who are sharing their experiences as part of Creativity and Wellbeing Week.

“It was amazing. The moments people were able to create in the space at the Higher Conservatory of Dance of Alicante were so special. The way they got everybody working together, the energy; I’ve never seen anything like it in any dance workshop,” said Carrie Mansfield, delegation organiser and Creative Director at The Garage.

Interdependence is promoted among participants. Dance has often been stereotyped as an activity for those with certain elite physiques. Inclusive dance challenges that by levelling the playing field, encouraging people with all sorts of bodies and minds to find their own way of moving and communicating with each other.

“There was almost no mention of people’s functional or neuro diversity. It broke down the preconceptions of what dance is. It was really exciting to remove the restrictions people may’ve placed on themselves, really open up and start playing with creativity and push ourselves. It’s sparked a desire to work with partners across the world, whether that’s inclusive or other projects.”

The experience was an invaluable learning curve for The Garage, which hasn’t done a lot of international work. Much of that revolved around the practicalities of working with people in different countries and the travel challenges for functionally diverse participants.

“One of the learnings that’s come out of it is that it was an inclusive dance project and the workshops were very inclusive, but the rest of the trip wasn’t,” added Carrie.

“Some of the people with functional diversity had to stay in a separate hotel which had access and we couldn’t afford that for the people who didn’t have a functional diversity, so there was a sort of a separation there. Going forward, with the right funding you would look for people to be together so the whole experience is inclusive not just the practical workshops.

Even the venue wasn’t accessible particularly. That’s something we in the UK are better at. I don’t think we’ve got it perfect by any means but we’re a little bit ahead of the curve.”

The next DAN.CE IN conference is in Frontone, Italy, Tuesday 20-Sunday 25 August. Workshop participants will create a performance piece for a local festival that Carrie hopes will be shared at The Garage when delegates come to Norwich Thursday 31 October-Sunday 3 November.

The venue’s own Inclusive Dance company – which meets 6PM-7PM every Friday – is already incorporating some of what members learnt during their time in Spain.

Carrie said: “They’re working on a performance for our Turnstyle showcase on Thursday 25 July. What’s really exciting is we’ll be able to share that with 300 people at Norwich Playhouse.

Hopefully they will watch this inclusive, creative and imaginative piece of dance and go ‘wow’ -not because people are functionally diverse, but because it’s great. If you start with that ambition to create something beautiful, you can start changing society’s perceptions about participation and diversity. We want people to come to The Garage to dance, to do theatre, to do music regardless of their situation. To have that platform to put this work in front of a public audience is really exciting.”

DAN.CE IN is an Erasmus + Plus Programme that’s part of the projects sponsored and funded by the European Agency for Education, Culture and Audiovisual EACEA. It is co-funded by the Erasmus + Programme of the European Union. It’s supported using public funding by Arts Council England.

Click here to find out more about The Garage’s range of classes and performance groups.

Liked this? We'd love you to share the word