20 Jul No Assumptions, Please!
Inclusivity in Dance
Hello from Syros, Greece! Last year I was awarded an Erasmus by MCAST to come here to Syros to help at the Akropoditi dance festival (https://www.akropoditi.com/dancefest/en/). Unfortunately it had to be postponed because of Covid19, but luckily this year they were able to put on the festival and I could come and do the Erasmus here. So far it has been an amazing experience. In this blog post, I shall be talking about my experience in one of the workshops here.
This week I began with my first series of workshops, called Autonomous Moves. It is for dancers with and without disabilities. It is great to be a part of it especially as I want to advocate for inclusion in performing arts and through these sessions I’m continuing to learn how to do that and how to make it inclusive.
The great part about doing something related to dance is that you can really learn a lot from it. What I loved and learnt from my tutor Medie Megas is that the way she works is focused on being part of a group, in trusting and building connections with each other. The fact that we are all in an inclusive setting made even more of an impact. Another great part about this workshop is that you can really learn about yourself. In fact from these first few workshops I learnt that I am good at exploring different dynamics and floor work and seeing where my body can take me.
From these workshops I have become more confident in myself and feel I am ready to actually lead a group, to be in charge of something, because usually when it comes to group activities I am more of a follower. During these workshops I have also learnt to become more brave and daring, trusting in myself and to put myself to a test and challenge myself.
You can see below the Q&A I did with the tutor of these workshops, Medie.
Medie was born in England and graduated from the Greek National School of Dance and has a Master of Arts in Contemporary Dance from Kent University (in affiliation with LCDS). She works as a choreographer, dance teacher, history of dance teacher, writes articles, gives workshops and lectures on dance and performance. She collaborates with artists and professionals from various disciplines and has been active in the field of inclusive dance since 2013, as artistic collaborator of the Onassis Cultural Centre (https://www.onassis.org/people/medie-megas). You can also visit her website at: (http://mediemegas.gr/)
Q&A with Medie
1. What drew you to working in inclusive dance?
When I was a young dancer around 2001 I did a workshop with Alito Alessi and Emery Blackwell and danced in a dance company with a dancer in a wheel chair and since then I have been interested in the field. Then in 2013, I started working for the ‘Unlimited Access’ European programme as an external collaborator /choreographer for the ONESIS Cultural Sector. Since then, I have never stopped!
2. Have you done any performances in Greece with an inclusive cast? How did it go? What were the reactions of the audience?
As I said in question one I have danced in inclusive performances and I have choreographed inclusive performances. They were staged in very different settings in a small underground theatre and the big OCC auditorium but they both went really well. In the first the wheel chair dancer was the only disabled dancer so inclusivity was not really a theme, more like a ‘given’. The second was a big event with three major works for three different inclusive groups of dancers. In both cases the performance were not framed as a ‘community dance’ but as professional artistic works and I think that was how they perceived by the audience. There was great enthusiasm in the second big performance. People who had never seen inclusive dance were quite ‘transformed’ or so they said!
3. What did you find the most rewarding and the most challenging in your work?
I call the workshop ‘Autonomous Moves’. Autonomy is for me the challenge and the reward at the same time. Finding the line between the following structures of a task and keeping your own thread of thought is the aim of the workshop. It is most rewarding to see change in the participants even the tiniest change. A sudden initiative. A holding back if one is always going for action. Going for action if one is always holding back. Standing still if one is always moving. Moving if one is always standing still. The challenge is to get away from a virtuosic definition of dance. To accept presence and every kind of motion as dance.
Later this year, through Opening Doors, I am going to be part of an inclusive dance performance for the ZiguŻajg Festival. It is being directed by Douglas Comley with Sandra Mifsud as the project co-ordinator in collaboration with Opening Doors. I think this is the first professional dance performance by a mixed ability cast in Malta so I’m very excited to be part of it.
What I learned from Medie, my take home message today, is: if we are going to promote inclusivity in performing arts in Malta then we should not hold back. We should accept the challenge to make all kinds of performances inclusive and to treat them as professional works instead of something done by a community. The end result will make a huge impact on those who come and see it and they will want to see other performances like it.