Podcast Episode: Indepen-dance
What follows is a transcription of the audio recording. Due to differences between spoken and written English, the transcript may contain quirks of grammar and syntax.
MM Michael McEwan
KA Karen Anderson
MM On this podcast you will hear me speaking to some people from Indepen-dance. Indepen-dance is an award winning, inclusive dance company for disabled and non-disabled people to enjoy and fulfil their prospects through dance. So, I got to meet one of the team members of the company, Adam, who enjoys dancing and also I caught up with the founding member of the company, Karen Anderson.
MM So, Karen, you founded Indepen-dance in 1996: so, tell us a bit about the organisation?
KA So, I started the company in 1996 really to sort of fill a gap because at the time there was no provision for people with different abilities to access a dance activity. So, that’s why I started the organisation, just to make sure that dance was accessible to people with different abilities and had different needs and we’re 23 years old now. Initially we only had one class a week cos it was just me and it quickly developed to two and then four and as it grew then I needed more people to support me and as the organisation grew I needed more people to support me so, there was more opportunities if we were going to be a charity to access funds so I needed a board of directors so, I got a board of directors and then the company’s just really grown over the years. So, 23 years on and we have 15 staff, 6 of whom are disabled staff members and we deliver 26 classes a week: just about to be 27 and also on top of that 12 out reach jobs which is when we go and teach for other third sector organisations. So, it’s around about 38 classes a week so, it’s busy.
MM Yeah, busy, busy. So, why was there a need to set a kind of organisation like this up for?
KA I suppose the intention wasn’t to set a company up: that wasn’t my intention. I was working in social work and I had taken a group of people to a local dance class cos that was my job, I was, you know, caring for people in a day centre and we went to a class and the teacher at the end of the class told me not to bring people back and I was just a bit upset about that, you know and sad for the people that I was with cos they had such a lovely time but the teacher was like, you know, “You’re just wasting your money and why are you bringing these people here because they can’t do what we’re doing?” and I just was really upset at that so, I kind of wanted to just have a class where it would be open for everyone not even like it wasn’t the whole thing about having one specifically for disabled people: it was about a place where anyone could come and share in a dance activity. So, that’s why I started probably from that experience.
MM And I’m delighted to see one of the dancers are here, Indepen-dance, Adam. So, Adam, how did you hear about Indepen-dance?
A Yeah, so at first I went as a family to see Indepen-dance at the Tron Theatre while I was at secondary school. I was impressed with the dancers but then also later on I went one night a week to the Young One’s new youth group that had started and also while at Young ones, Karen offered me a membership with Indepen-dance so, then I have never looked back.
MM Ah that’s good. So, what’s good about coming to Indepen-dance?
A Well I see like to be on stage, I like working with the clients and also my colleagues as well. And I like all the opportunities for dreaming to travel and being able to develop my career into choreography.
MM Oh that’s good, yeah and how many years have you been here for?
A I’ve been here for about 18/19 sort of kind of …
MM Oh yeah.
A … thing.
MM Yeah, that’s good. Yeah. So, Karen you were saying to us earlier on about like you run different workshops …
KA Uh huh.
MM … and different classes and all that. Just tell us what kind of happens if somebody signs up for them? What kind of happens at them?
KA So, normally it starts either with a referral so, it could be word of mouth referral: that can be by parents or social work, education because we go into schools so, people are referred to the service or they call up off their own back, they’ll maybe find us on the internet. And what we do is we ask people some questions when they phone up, we’ve got a new referral form, they complete the questions with us and it’s things like just the person’s name, is there anything we should know about the person that would … cos we don’t really want to know people’s disabilities: it’s more about their likes or dislikes so, we would want to know if something in the class would upset them. You know like if the music was too loud or if there was a certain prop that they were afraid of cos we’ll work with lots of different materials so, if somebody was afraid of balloons then we need to know that …
KA … so, we ask questions like that, we ask the person to come along and try a class because all the classes are different. So, we have classes for children, for young people and for adults but they’re also taught by a different team of people and each teacher has a different skill and has a different energy so, it might be that you want to go to a class where the teacher’s got really high energy and full of fun or you might be best suited to go to a class where it’s calmer and just a bit more laid back so, we do say to people, you know come and try and if that class doesn’t suit then go and try another class and if it’s not for you: it’s not for you. But we also would recommend other organisations because if it’s the arts that people want to do then there’s some brilliant inclusive arts companies out there: Project Ability, there’s Solar Bear, there’s Birds of Paradise, there’s Paragon, there’s a whole ream of organisations that do work with people with disabilities so, we would recommend them if it wasn’t something that you know, that was suited to them, that we could offer.
MM So, you’ve got different groups within Indepen-dance. So, tell us about your performance group: what kind of happens there?
KA So, when we started Indepen-dance, it didn’t take too long before we realised that people, for instance like Adam, had incredible talent …
MM Uh huh.
KA … and they couldn’t find the pathways to go to train, they would be excluded from training as a dancer so, we set up a youth company, an adult performance company and then we set up Indepen-dance 4 which is our small ensemble professional touring company which Adam is part of. But Adam is a great example of pathways to the profession because Adam … sorry, I’m speaking for you but you’re … I’m using that as an example, as Adam said, he joined the youth company, he then went into the adult performance company and then got an apprenticeship and then became part of the touring company. But Adam also was supported through Indepen-dance to realise his desire to be a choreographer.
MM Oh and do you like that?
A Yeah, I love to be a choreographer, I think I came across that. I’ve worked with … for being to (… unclear) but I inspire Romesh (… unclear) and Matthew Bond and I want to be like someone like that. So, I’d like kind of to show off like … to choreograph dance, it helps us to kind of create like Mathew Bond would create. So (… unclear) that, kind of I can pull out, so I can soul the connection with Matthew Bond, and that’s kind of the (… unclear) that I’d like to choreograph.
MM Have you always wanted to dance?
A Yes, I have always wanted to dance, to express myself, to be confident, to be fit, it helps my health in other ways as I’ve had many health conditions.
MM Oh right, yeah.
A … which I’m proud of … sometimes I might not but that also helps me with my fitness.
KA We integrate schools so, we look for a partner in a mainstream school to work with an ASN school over a block or a term like 10 weeks where the 2 schools come together and they work together to just dance and share because I think that’s really important, that inclusion is really important, that integration is really important as well. Because we’ve worked in schools where, mainstream schools, and you ask kids like, have you ever met someone with a disability, and they’re like “no”. And I think that what we do is help young people change perceptions that they’ve maybe got through, you know, social media or through their own family’s experiences.
MM So do you do kind of like awareness training as well?
KA We don’t do that, no. I think that we raise awareness all the time by the work that we do, the public work that we do. I think the company that Adam dances in, Independence 4 is, you know, they’re huge advocates for professional dance and showing people, you know, regardless of who you are and what you do, that you can be part of a dance activity if you want, or perform if you want. So Neil and Adam, in particular, are great role models for young children who have got a disability - they are great role models for that. So our education is more about advocates, advocacy. We do run courses for our staff team, but it’s more about the staff developing their skills further. So we had Adam Benjamin here from Candoco Dance Company last week and he was the Co-Founder of Candoco, which is a London based dance company, inclusive dance company.
MM So Adam, whereabouts do you go on tour? Is it in Scotland or do you go to different parts of the world?
A Yeah, so we have been really lucky to go around throughout the UK, places that we’ve been all over the world throughout the UK. So we’ve been to Australia, we’ve been to Thailand, we’ve been to Japan, been to Finland and Germany, France and Belgium. And also the highlight of my career will be in March and April when we are going to perform in New York on Broadway.
MM Can I come?
MM Only if I can dance. So how has Independence helped your confidence?
A I like to dance because it helps me a lot in different ways that some people are different - some people who are like in the company who are professionals or someone with disabilities, or if people like got into training first and then got into the company. And I’ve had two professional dancers within the company, Hayley Adam and (… unclear), so they trained me and my other colleague, Neil, in Independence 4, the training company, and after that it was Hayley and Emma, so I always had training from them from (… unclear) dance, because I’ve never outside work with training. Like (… unclear) or Hayley have had, or Emma, so it’s kind of great that I’ve got that chance to kind of be trained by them.
MM So what would you say to people listening to this and say “oh I quite fancy joining Independence”, but they’re not very sure. What would you say to people about joining?
A I would say come along, dance your heart out, don’t let anyone hold you down, don’t let any say that you’re not good enough, be confident, prove that you can change people’s perspectives and change how you can adapt in your own way of movement and there is always an option to adapt to your own ability, and it’s not good to be excluded. So someone about that, I’d say yes, come along, you’re one of us, and we will be there to offer you help and support - come along with your support worker, and it’s good to be involved, rather than not being involved. And if you’re unsure or shy or if you don’t know, then I’d say, be adventurous. Do what you think is right for you and do it in your own way that is suitable.
MM Okay, thanks, and if you would like some more information about Independence, or maybe you would like to join the actual company - all you have to do is go onto the website at http://www.indepen-dance.org.uk/
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