Resilience and Inclusion: Dancers as Agents of Change

Lead Research Organisation: Coventry University
Department Name: Ctr for Dance Research

Abstract

The InVisible Difference: Dance Disability and Law project uniquely brought together the combined expertise of researchers and practitioners in dance and law to address questions concerning the making, status, authorship and ownership of disability dance. The project has generated a great deal of attention from independent disabled dance artists and arts organisations, leading to the recognition that there is a general lack of awareness of the legal frameworks relevant for the sector. The research was undertaken against a background of significant cuts in welfare provision in the UK for disabled people, which has begun to have a negative impact on independent disabled artists including dancers, further reducing participation in the arts and requiring some innovative thought about resilience within the disabled dance community. The recent report by the Warwick Commission (2015) also warned of the impact of welfare cuts meaning that other strategies are needed to enable artists to develop the ingenuity and resources to survive and prosper. In the context of austerity and cuts to public funding for the arts it is copyright that could underpin new and emergent business models within the dance community. But whilst there was a high level of demand from within the professional dance sector to understand more about the law of copyright within this context, an additional and ongoing barrier to these artists being able to thrive is a lack of critical engagement with the work of disabled artists. In particular, there is a lack of knowledge amongst the general public and those responsible for programming the work of disabled dancers (theatre programmers, producers, directors, curators etc.) about the working lives of dancers with disabilities and how this impacts on the dancers' ability to make, produce and share their work. This is in part because of the entrenched nature of the medical model of disability (prevalent within the health sector), which becomes a lens through which the participants in this sector are often viewed, and the failure of the human rights framework to deliver tangible benefits to the everyday lives of the dancers, despite the promise that it holds. Our research revealed that audiences tend to focus on binary concepts of bodily difference and deviations from the 'normal' dancing body and theatre professionals often struggle to make informed decisions about artistic quality and how to promote and market the work in its own terms, unleashed from a focus on inclusion and integration.
The project will directly address this lack of audience and legal literacy for dance by disabled artists, across the sector, by creating easily accessible resources to generate wider acknowledgement of the contribution that disabled dancers can make to the cultural landscape and to stimulate the development and sustainability of new business models for dance. By working in conjunction with initiatives led by national dance and arts organisations, including Arts Council England's Creative Case for Diversity 'change makers' scheme and Dance for Change's 'quality framework for inclusive dance' programme, we will create an Online Toolkit to transmit knowledge about the issues at stake. The Toolkit will include film of professional disabled dancers in rehearsal, focusing on their working methods and working conditions, and talking about their work. Designed for two main audiences; the disabled dance community and performance programmers, the Toolkit will be made freely available to change perceptions about disability and to show how the law of copyright can be applied to support the sustainability and impact of dance made and performed by disabled dance artists. The project will conclude with a stakeholder workshop to disseminate the project, the Toolkit and to capture feedback for a set of sector-facing project briefings.

Planned Impact

The project will create an Online Toolkit that will be made available on publically accessible platforms and via a stakeholder workshop for a wide range of beneficiaries, including the professional disabled dance community, arts professionals, producers, curators, dance organisations, legal entities, audiences and educators. The project will also generate at least one journal article and produce project briefings to highlight the key findings for policy makers and the Intellectual Property Office (IPO). The outputs will be designed to lead to a number of outcomes; the dance workforce (and particularly the disabled dance community) will be more aware of the legal frameworks that can support the creation and sustainability of their work and they will learn how to engage with audiences and explicate their work to drive new understandings; theatre programmers will learn of legal and ethical requirements and how to market disabled dance; other artists and audiences will learn how to engage with dance by disabled artists without resorting to a deficit model; and policymakers will develop ways in which to engage with disabled arts and copyright and to implement frameworks for inclusion. A further outcome would be more opportunities for disabled dancers to participate in the professional performance arena, on terms that are equal to their non-disabled peers.

These outcomes will be the subject of conference presentations to ensure effective dissemination of the project; at least one sector-facing and one academic conference will be targeted. An Open Access publication/article will be shared with those at the Stakeholder event and with professional communities. Project publications will also benefit the academic and legal communities. These strategies will ensure that there is impact within the dance professional and academic communities, within funding and policy making bodies that have a responsibility towards the dance workforce, within the National Dance Network, theatre programmers, and dance agencies that support the work of dancers with disabilities, and within the wider dance-attending public. Further impact will be within the IPO and other legal entities. Dance UK will provide support for the project by disseminating the Toolkit to its members and via convening a Dance Managers Network meeting. The British Council and Abid Hussain, Director, Diversity, Arts Council England is also keen to support the development and dissemination of the toolkit. Following Meagre's taxonomy of impact of research (2013), impact will be instrumental (by creating models for artists, tools for audiences and by influencing policy), conceptual (through challenging perceptions, generating debate and encouraging knowledge exchange), impact will build capacity (through up-skilling disabled dancers and professional arts workers, providing intelligence to national dance organisations and networks, and building online resources), will support attitude/cultural change (by promoting collaboration and the exchange of knowledge between academics, artists, professional arts workers and across disciplinary boundaries), and will create enduring connectivity (by building support for communities of practice, sustaining the online toolkit and establishing links with national initiatives and professional organisations for future collaborations).
 
Description A mixed-mode multi-media toolkit has proved to be an effective way of reaching a wide audience and user community. The artist film at the heart of the toolkit is a very effective way of transmitting the particular knowledge that resides in dancers with disabilities, as well as communicating the complexities of their working lives and how their experiences can influence programming strategies as well as reception more generally of their work. The presentation of the legal frameworks that are relevant for arts organisations as well as artists in an accessible way, and which engages users in reflecting on their own policies and processes has met with very positive responses. The combination of accessible information, presented through video, image, text, and which includes multiple links to open access publications, is an effective way of bringing together diverse resources that users can browse through or engage with in a deeper way. The variety in the different information sources seems to be a valuable way of reaching a wide cross-section of users.
Exploitation Route The toolkit is being widely disseminated through dance organisations in the UK and has already been picked up by some international organisations so we hope that many communities will find the toolkit valuable. The model may be picked up as an effective method for communicating what can be complex information, particularly for non-specialists. Many dance artists have commented on its value in supporting their work.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL https://openmoodle.coventry.ac.uk/course/view.php?id=502
 
Description The open-access toolkit developed during Resilience and Inclusion: Dancers as Agents of Change has a growing number of users registered on the site. The team are continuing to share the toolkit via our networks and monitor the impact it has on the knowledge and practices of users. During previous engagement activities, participants have noted changes to the way they think about ownership and the rights of people with disabilities. Furthermore, the toolkit and film have been used in presentations by other academics, impacting on practices and thinking in the field.
 
Description AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award
Amount £68,648 (GBP)
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2017 
End 01/2020
 
Description British Council Exchange Programme
Amount £4,787 (GBP)
Organisation British Council 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2017 
End 04/2018
 
Description Performing Empowerment: Disability, Dance, and Inclusive Development in Post-Conflict Sri Lanka
Amount £38,946 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/P008178/2 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2017 
End 09/2018
 
Title Resilience and Inclusion online toolkit 
Description The online toolkit has been designed to support professional dance artists, venue managers, programmers and other cultural sector workers understand better how to support the work of professional dance artists with disabilities. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2017 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Take-up from a number of professional dance organisations and national dance bodies, and promotion through the National Dance Agencies. 
URL https://openmoodle.coventry.ac.uk/course/view.php?id=364
 
Description Kate Marsh research visit to Australia for collaboration with Critical Path 
Organisation Critical Path Institute
Country United States 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Two week research residency with three Australian artists developing a choreographic practice. Using practice and research to interrogate individual and collective practices and make research links between multi-disciplinary organisations.
Collaborator Contribution Supported by Metal Culture, Arts Council, England - research to be disseminated through these organisations and C-DaRE
Impact This collaboration will result in a research film , documenting the processes and the aim is that this will be used to disseminate findings and investigate potential further research areas.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Marsh, K. , Finding Your Way, Animated Community Dance Magazine 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Article in industry magazine
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Conference Panel 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Whatley, Waelde and Marsh presented a panel on Resilience and Inclusion at CORD+SDHS 2017 Conference: Transmissions and Traces: Rendering Dance. Ohio State University, 19-22 October 2017. This led to lively discussion and multiple requests for further information.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.sdhscordconference.org/event-2534115
 
Description Conference panel 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Whatley, Waelde and Marsh presented a panel on Resilience and Inclusion: Dancers as Agents of Change at Disability and Disciplines: The International Conference on Educational, Cultural, and Disability Studies. Centre for Culture and Disability Studies, Liverpool Hope University, 5-6 July, 2017. This led to a connection with a colleague from Dortmund University who tested the toolkit and has used the research including a film made as part of the project in her subsequent work. The team are also in conversation with her about possible collaborative research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://ccds.hope.ac.uk/ourconference.html
 
Description Invited talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Whatley presented 'Transmitting Inclusion in Dance' at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Glasgow. This led to and invitation for a follow-up discussion with a particular focus on the young dancers training to be dancers with 'unseen' disabilities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Marsh, K. , 11 Million Reasons, People Dancing crowdfunding campaign 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Supporters
Results and Impact Public-facing crowd-funding campaign for a photography project featuring dancers with disabilities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
URL http://www.communitydance.org.uk/developing-participation/11-million-reasons-to-dance/photography-ex...
 
Description Marsh, K. , Do you "do" disabled dancing?, South East Dance newsletter 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Entry in regional dance organisation newsletter to raise awareness of some of the questions at the core of the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://southeastdance.org.uk/blog/do-you-do-disabled-dancing/
 
Description Presentation at DocPerform2 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Whatley's presentation led to discussion with QUT, Australia, re Ausstage and the inclusion of work by disabled artists - now to be developed into a chapter in a book on disability arts.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Stakeholder workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Stakeholder workshop to launch the Resilience and Inclusion toolkit. Coventry University, London Campus, 14 September 2017. The launch provided an opportunity for key stakeholders to work with the toolkit and learn about its development. There was a lot of discussion amongst the participants and many people reported shifts in ways of thinking. Some key contacts were made for further dissemination of the toolkit.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Whatley, S. , Does Education Include? Animated Community Dance Magazine 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Article in community dance industry magazine to contribute to conversations about inclusive dance education.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.communitydance.org.uk/DB/animated-library/does-education-include?ed=32213