Guest Blog from Joop about Integrance Project

Stopgap associate, Joop, writes about her involvement within the EU project, Integrance. How her role changed during the process and what she has learnt from the project as a whole…

Finally it is time to write a complete blog about the Integrance Project, which was funded by the EU culture commission. The last two years, 4 different Integrated dance companies have worked together; Micadanse from Paris, Platform-K from Gent, Indepen-Dance from Glasgow and Stopgap’s Sg2 Emerging Artists from Farnham (UK). To close the project off there would be a performance in NTGent and in Paris at the Micadanse studio space, which took place on the 17th of February in NTGent. However, it was not really the end. This is just the beginning of something that grew over the last two years.
Let me take for you for a journey through the last two years…

The first week of the EU project started in September 2013 in London. All the companies came together and Stopgap Dance Company were hosting the event. I was there as a translator between the Belgium company, Platform-K and the English/ Scottish artists. We had class in the morning taught by Stopgap. I remember it was difficult and some dancers were struggling. All dancers had a different dance background and different disabilities. This made the group very diverse and for me interesting to work with. Nevertheless, we all ended the class excited and drained with new information and knowledge about how to work with your own body in a professional way. Having a professional dance background this was so new for me and so different from all the other classes I ever had. I felt welcome and not judged on the ‘technique’. In the afternoon we worked with the choreographer from Belgium. Spending my time with Stopgap before this project I was curious about the method and the way of working she had to offer. After the first two days many questions raised and I wasn’t sure what to think and what my vision/idea was on the ‘inclusion’ or ‘integrated’ dance topic.

The second week February 2014 was in Paris. This time Micadanse were hosting. I remember we had a very interesting class with a choreographer that worked with blind dancers. Being blind-fold in class I experienced so many other things and then being in Paris, was magic. In the end the lady showed us Laban Notation for blind dancers. A plastic format with colour coded blocks you could click on. The system was amazing and so practical. In the afternoon we also worked on the some choreographic aspects of the performance. We made a hair scene, which was beautiful! However, in the end of the week, it turned out to be questionable. Where were we going with the piece? What was the reason we did certain exercises? How do I stand in this process?

The third week, August 2014 Indepen-Dance hosted us in Glasgow at the Tramway. Karen Anderson, the Artistic director of Indepen-dance organised the first inclusive dance festival in Scotland during our stay, which was called Gathering Together. We were able to meet new companies and artists in this field, such as AXIS Dance Company, Claire Cunningham and Marc Brew. It was amazing and eye-opening to see so many dance practitioners already being established and going beyond the fact of working with disabled dancers.
(I am writing this because I am coming from a country, The Netherlands, where unfortunately we mostly see artists with a disability in a social context and not in a professional one. However, we should not forget that the UK and Scotland are almost 30 years ahead of us Europeans.)
Like the other weeks we started with a class in the morning and rehearsals in the afternoon. This time the choreographer George Adams flew in to work with us on the performance. Some material, which ended up in the performance, was made that week, however we had to start from the beginning, so the group dynamics and getting to know one another was important too! Also some new dancers were introduced, so it was important to be there as a team and work together. After that week the companies decided that George would work with all the four companies independently to create work. Then in the last week, which was in Gent, all the separate choreography would be connected.

The last week and the performance was in Gent. I had started this process merely as a translator, however I later became a dancer, which meant I only had two rehearsal days with George in Belgium, so this week was crucial for me. And on top of that one of the Indepen-dance dancers became ill, so I filled in his role. Nevertheless, the first day the structure became clear and all four parts mingled into one another. The piece was created very naturally and ended up lasting 40minutes!
Then the big day, the big premiere in NTGent was finally there. Everyone was fairly calm even though the venue was very big. However, the stage was not flat, there was a small slope which made working with wheelchairs difficult and we had to adapt some movements.
In total around 600 people saw the performance. As I see it, we changed the prejudice and preconception of around 600 audience members.

The EU project was full highs and doubts but in the end we all knew that this was a great project to be involved in. We all gained so much knowledge by the way every company was working, and we learned so much about one another. I do hope this family continues growing. Growing as dancers, teachers, art practitioners, individuals and friends. There may not be another performance but as long as we keep exchanging knowledge and experience. This is the key element and the most important thing.

 

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