What is Access in Dance?

A free public forum on accessible dance education, training and practice. Presented by Ausdance NSW & Ausdance VIC, supported by the Sydney Opera House, with Arts Access Victoria & Accessible Arts NSW

29 July, 2020 1 PM

With over 185 attendees, the public forum “What is Access in Dance” witnessed valuable and much needed discussions around the notions of access and inclusion and what they really mean in dance contexts,  whether in education and training or professional practice.

The panel including disabled choreographer Caroline Bowditch, musician/ composer Liz Martin and deaf contemporary dancer Anna Seymour had a lively discussion with Performance Researcher Kate Maguire-Rosier.  

Photo Credit: Murmuration ‘Days Like These’ (2018), artists Matt Shilcock and Melinda Omokaro. Photo by Giselle Vollmer.

Two dancers are intertwined together through their arm movements. From the left the dancer is bent over with his arms stretched downwards and they are linked with the hands of the dancer on the right. Her head is facing upwards with her body leaning backwards. To the right of the image is a wheelchair. Coloured image on a blacked-out stage, stage lighting shining on the artists.

The event began with a game where participants had to guess the names of two dozen screened Australian Deaf and/or Disabled dance artists and companies.

Next was a presentation on facts and stats that make up the Australian disability arts scene in general.

What followed was a rather open discussion driven by questions from participants submitted both in advance as well as during the event itself. Rather than sharing resources and tips on access, the presenters shared stories and anecdotes.

Some key learning’s that emerged for all were:

  1. Access is an attitude qualified by openness and curiosity. It’s about ensuring an access line in an organisational or project budget, it’s about asking ‘Amazonian-brave’ questions (a quote from Caroline verbatim!)
  2. Accepting that access is not optional.
  3. Access is about witnessing and participating in a vibrant bilingual, multi-layered discussion or feeling struck by the realness of a lived experience where a dancer is told off for missing a beat by a teacher who failed to understand Deafness or simply failed to know they were Deaf.

Thank you to everyone who made this session possible and to all those who attended.

Presented by Ausdance NSW & Ausdance VIC, supported by the Sydney Opera House, with Arts Access Victoria & Accessible Arts NSW