Why Inclusive Dance and What Does it Mean?

Dance teachers and schools everywhere are opening their practice to disabled children and young people with a variety of needs. It is a growing trend in response to a more diverse and inclusive society – and resulting policy development – which has led to increased expectations and requirements to offer opportunities for all.

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What is inclusivity in dance?

In the dictionary inclusivity is defined as "the practice or policy of including people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized, such as those who have physical or mental disabilities and members of minority groups."

In dance this may translate to ‘supporting people to dance regardless of ability, physical or learning disability, or also mental state.’

More than just supporting disabled people to participate in dance activities, at the ISTD it is our aim to expand on this definition and include:

  • Exploring and developing each individual’s physical, mental and creative potential, and
  • Providing opportunities for disabled and non-disabled people to dance together and interact with each other.

How can dance teachers and businesses demonstrate their commitment to inclusivity?

To quote Amy Bastin, an ISTD teacher involved in our research programme: “Working towards an inclusive school so far has been about instilling an attitude of welcome, respect and responsiveness, by allowing every child the widest choices possible and allowing them to exercise those choices in a way that works for them.’

Far beyond a welcoming attitude, nowadays a dance teacher’s or studio’s commitment to inclusivity is illustrated by:

  • Having a compelling vision towards disability-friendly practice.
  • Using accessible language and images that may show a range of learners, including those with and without disabilities, in order to convey that vision (e.g. on the website).
  • Making physical adjustments (e.g. parking space near to venue, providing step-free access into a venue or also the toilets, lighting arrangements, etc.).
  • Being mindful of everyday communication and being open to discuss each individual’s needs with his/her family members or carers.
  • Giving consideration to the teaching approach and how the syllabi can be made more accessible.

More on this as well as legal requirements, funding tips and a directory of useful organisations and publications can be found throughout this resources section.

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Kimberley Creak, another ISTD teacher involved in our research programme, reflected on the impact on the inclusive practice in her school:  

“When you have students who are quite high achievers and really striving for the top end of the exam criteria, you find that they often want to push through quite quickly and parents are quite keen for them to get the next exam. So I was worried at the start of the process about how it might affect that end of the school, particularly because all students are integrated within mainstream classes. But this has in fact had quite the opposite effect in that it has really benefited the whole class. It has made them all take a little bit of a step back and really understand what they’re doing rather than just pushing through and doing it because they can quite easily do the movement. It has actually given them a deeper understanding of what they’re learning and appreciate what they can do”.

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Continue to: Legal background, requirements and safeguarding

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