A brand new disability arts festival called Sensibility is coming to Birmingham this weekend. As a dance teacher who has worked with Sense Arts for five years, I’m really excited to be leading a choreographed dance, movement and story session this Friday 18 May and Sunday 20 May, at Sense’s TouchBase Pears multipurpose venue.
Leading dance sessions for people with complex communication needs was a steep learning curve
Sense first approached me five years ago to lead a project called InterACTION, supporting people with complex communication needs, including deafblindness, to take part in dance and movement.
The first session was a very steep learning curve. As soon as we began, we found ourselves asking many questions; ‘How do we communicate with people who can’t see or hear us?’, ‘How do we find out what is comfortable, enjoyable or interesting movement to explore and execute?’, ‘Are we being clear, or confusing?’
Following that first session, we felt like we had failed and realised how little we knew about this practice. But, much to our surprise, the Sense Arts team contacted us to give us some training, and gave us another go! And we haven’t looked back since.
Each person that has come to our session has taught us something new, and I think it’s fair to say that our own artistic practice has been at least informed, if not transformed by working with Sense. We still have many questions, but they have shifted. For instance, now, we ask ‘What is dance?’, ‘Why is it important?’, and ‘Who is this for?’
I’m not sure we have found conclusive answers to any of our questions, and in fact each session or rehearsal raises more questions, but we keep moving forward by focusing on what works and letting go of what doesn’t.
Fundamental to this practice is the concept of attunement. We see this as finding out where someone is ‘at’ on a particular day, meeting them there, and moving together from that point, looking for potential and exploring possibilities. We rely heavily on the expertise and skill of the support workers from Sense to ensure that every person is getting the most out of the experience.
Dance inspires and uplifts people
We have had some unforgettable moments during this project, both in our sessions with Sense, and also with the residents of Selly Park Care Home.
I’m always struck by the moments when people have given us clear signs that they are happy, empowered, and expressing themselves through movement, and also the moments when people connect, non-verbally, to someone else.
These moments are sometimes fleeting, often surprising and always leave a certain feeling that is hard to explain, but that drives us to keep searching for more! These sort of connections somehow go deeper than the verbal and visual interactions that we have every day, helping us to understand something of the shared human experience.
This Saturday at the Sensibility Festival, I’ll be leading a dance and movement sensory experience in the Buzz Studio at TouchBase Pears; Sense’s multipurpose venue in Birmingham. During this experience, I hope that people who do not usually interact, are able to find moments of connection, presence and self-expression.
The Sensibility Festival takes place this Friday, 18 May – Sunday 20 May.
Events will happen at both Sense’s TouchBase Pears venue and Midlands Arts Centre venue.
Free transportation between venues will be provided, but need pre-booking.
Find out more and purchase tickets on the TouchBase Pears website.