In October of 2023, we released ‘Movement Reimagined’, a unique resource for organisations and groups supporting the wellbeing of older adults in Calderdale.
Written by Sam and informed by years of experience, the guide outlines the benefits of dance for older adults, and provides helpful advice and examples for groups to follow; supporting them to explore how creative dance and movement might complement their work.
Within the guide, Sam mentions the social model of disability, which is the understanding that disability is created by barriers in society. This inspired me to do some research on it and share it with you, as this model, which supports ways of working that are designed by disabled people themselves, is something we implement in the way we facilitate activities at Curious Motion.
The social model of disability is based around the premise that people with impairments or differences are not disabled until they encounter barriers in society that cause them to be at a disadvantage compared to non-disabled people. This can be due to lack of accessibility in spaces or situations, or it can be other people assuming that a disabled person can’t do certain things without having actually discussed anything with the disabled person themselves.
SCOPE, a disability charity, shares some examples of this on their website:
‘You are a disabled person who can’t use stairs and wants to get into a building with a step at the entrance. The social model recognises that this is a problem with the building, not the person, and would suggest adding a ramp to the entrance.
Your child with a visual impairment wants to read the latest best-selling book, so they can chat about it with their friends. The social model solution makes full-text recordings available when the book is published.’
You can find more information here: https://www.scope.org.uk/about-us/social-model-of-disability/
A lot of the social model’s application to dance comes in regards to assumptions that people might make about a disabled person’s ability to take part in a dance session. Assuming that a disabled person can’t take part in a dance activity means they are unable to access the wellbeing and social benefits that dance has to offer. But it doesn’t have to be this way!
There are many ways that someone might participate in a dance activity, and it will be different for each person, whether they identify as disabled or not. A little out-of-the-box thinking about how movements can be performed and a welcoming, open space, means that everyone can participate in a way that feels right for them.
One way we aim to create an environment of belonging in our sessions is the regular use of improvisation. We might ask participants to follow a certain theme, or a movement like a stretch, a bend, a twist… but everyone in the room can respond to this differently. And when we do teach set movements, they’re never really set! Instead they’re an invitation to follow along and adapt as each participant needs or wants to.
Not every disabled person follows the social model of disability, and not every person with an impairment identifies as disabled. But we have found the social model a useful framework at Curious Motion to explore attitudes and ways of working that promote inclusive dance practices, so that everyone can enjoy the benefits of dancing, and to strengthen a sense of belonging amongst our community.
I’ve put some links here to Stopgap, Candoco and Frontline dance companies, professional dance organisations who are formed of both disabled and non-disabled dancers, who create engaging and skillful work, as well as providing fantastic opportunities for community engagement.
Frontline Dance: https://frontlinedance.co.uk
Magpie and Mesh dance are organisations which provide a vast range of dance sessions for participants with learning disabilities to access the many benefits of movement:
Magpie Dance: https://www.magpiedance.org.uk
Mesh Dance: https://www.meshdance.co.uk
And multi-award winning charity Flamingo Chicks provides innovative sessions to ensure that disabled children can have access to the joy of dancing with others: https://flamingochicks.org
I’ll leave you with a quote from Stopgap’s website, that I feel aligns well with our ethos at Curious Motion:
‘We move together to create a remarkable experience that transforms society’s perceptions of difference and dismantle the inequity of privilege, in dance and in all aspects of living, collaborating, and creating together as humans.’