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Accessible Dance Workshops for creative expression, improved physical health and social interaction. 

Overview:

Since 2015, Laura has been developing dance workshops for participants who have physical, sensory and intellectual disabilities, based on her choreographic research and accessible dance project “Running Blind.” See www.runningblind.ie/workshops/ for details also here: www.healingyoga.ie/dance-ability/ 

Movement for Wellbeing Workshops offer participants an opportunity to experience dance and it’s expressive, health and social benefits while also bring a new dynamic to their relationships with their carers or key-workers who partner with them in the movement exercises.


July 2nd 2018, this project was the cover story of Health and Living in the Irish Independent- click here to read!


Background:

This project began in 2015 through the Create Ireland Artist in the Community award, where Laura worked with the Anne Sullivan Centre for the deafblind. In 2016, supported by the Dance Ireland annual Tyrone Guthrie Residency Award she worked with an accessible rights activist from New York who is blind to develop her workshop ideas. In 2017, as Dancer-in-Residence at RUA RED Arts Centre she facilitated integrated dance workshops, creative Labs and accessible performances for blind participants in the community.


Participant Benefits from Workshops:

The dance workshops support participants who are blind, to - 

  • learn about and develop dance skills, 
  • improve their self-confidence and body-awareness, 
  • increase their strength, co-ordination and stability, 
  • teach them practical skills to help them better orient themselves in their environment and in social interactions,
  • provide them with a supportive outlet for self expression and creativity, 
  • encourage new friendships and social skills,
  • offer great fun and enjoyment,
  • experience a sense of freedom rarely had in their typical daily lives.

*All benefits are based on direct feedback from participants of the workshops see quotes below.


Workshop content: 

The dance workshops are customised to the participants needs and ability.

Please see workshop clip here:https://youtu.be/WBE5Ako8yEM


The programme consists of dance exercises inspired by Contact Improvisation and Contemporary dance practices. The use of touch is essential to the work so participants develop skills in sensing and communicating through touch which enables them to feel more confident in dancing. 


The use of touch also has a functional purpose as gradually participants learn about Social Haptic Communication, a non-verbal language that was developed as a short-hand form of communication for people who are deafblind. It offers value for everyone and in particular can provide key-workers will an additional non-verbal method of communicating that provides directional and environmental information and spatial mapping skills to assist participants in social or busy environments in particular.   

                                                                                               

Laura has had training and direct mentoring from the developers of this communication model, Dr. Riitta Lahtinen and Russ Palmer, a deafblind musician. References for Social haptic touch: 

http://www.eurohaptics2012.org/invited2.html

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1877042812022999



Benefits Observed in Participants:

Feedback from participants to date has been that they felt more confident in themselves after the workshops and that their spatial awareness, listening through their senses (especially through their feet) drastically improved and supported their day to day experiences. 


Participants in this programme who are non-verbal have demonstrated increased strength in their legs and greater balance, improved mobility in their joints, increased confidence and ability to initiate and lead their partners rather than be the ‘follower’ and expression of joy and fun. The biggest marker of progress in every participant has been their increased ease in social interaction, group work and adaptability to dance with different partners within a workshop.   


Here is a video of feedback from a 2017 participant, Barry O’Donnell, who lost his vision in an accident:  https://youtu.be/c9yhDMeGqyI


Participant Quotes from post-workshop focus group discussion:

  • "I thought dance was impossible, these workshops have made the impossible possible" 
  • "Now I understand that listening is not just with your ears but your whole body”
  • "I can feel the world through my feet”
  • "I deepened my understanding of touch as a form of communication" 
  • "I experienced a universal language”
  • "We are all equal here”
  • "I learnt concrete tools for communicating in a new way”
  • "It has broadened my horizons”
  • “..Allowed me to express myself and be more self-confident" 
  • “..Expanded my comfort zone”
  • “It challenged my assumptions”
  • “ It broke down psychological barriers”

Web References:


2015- 2018: 


Websites:

www.runningblind.ie/workshops/ 

www.healingyoga.ie/dance-ability/


Video clips- 

Workshops with NCBI Participants:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_r1-CaFBYo


Workshop feedback from participant:

https://youtu.be/c9yhDMeGqyI


Documentation of performance, residency projects, workshops, work in development and rehearsal clips:

https://www.facebook.com/runningblindlsd



2017:


Running Blind 2017, Trailer for August performances at RUA RED Arts Centre:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3dxV9xJ5jI&t=14s


RUA RED Dancer-in-Residence 2017 clip with visual reference to ‘Body Story' practice within the project:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2WX_5JlSr6Y&t=16s


2016:


Research with Blind Colleague and accessibility advocate from NYC and another dance peer in 2016- 3 research videos- 


https://youtu.be/yQd7ph6F9bU


https://youtu.be/3WP3nYcxR1E


https://youtu.be/ULCUfKO772o