Sports Development Project – George Ashton Day Service

Hull and East Riding Dance Hub
Working in Collaboration (inclusive dance workshops)

Sports Development Project
George Ashton Day Service

Stephanie Potter (2Blondes Dance Company)

I instantly felt mixed feelings as I walked into George Ashton day service; excitement, as I was beginning a new project with a new co-leader from a completely different dance background, nerves as I was not sure what to expect as you never do before that first session, but overriding all the above was uncertainty. I felt like in this one room there was every possible type of disability sat in front of me. We had elderly dementia users, severely physically disabled users alongside adults with learning difficulties from moderate to high as well as younger users who at times, in the short time that I saw them, confused them as staff!

My instant fear was how on earth are we going to run sessions catering to all these different needs? However, myself and Sandra smiled through gritted teeth and pressed play on the I-pod. The moment the music played it seemed to change something in the room. The room united and they were all just dancing, together, as one big group. It was really quite touching actually.

Sandra specialises in Arabic and Bollywood dance practice which is far away from my deeply rooted contemporary practice. However this really seemed to work as it gave us two quite diverse approaches to work with. We took the spontaneous approach and just altered our sessions depending on the mood in the room. Sandra brought in traditional coin belts used in Arabic dance which the users loved as this was a very tactile and noisy prop for them to engage with. I also brought in a huge parachute which we had lots of fun with. This task really brought the group together and engaged some of the previously disengaged users to the dance session.

The George Ashton project has probably been my most rewarding process so far as it seemed so impossible within those first 5 minutes of entering the service. That one hour of joy that we brought to some of the service users was priceless and to see how each of the participants developed over the 8 weeks was remarkable. I would like to encourage a lot more of these sessions throughout hull and within day services like the George Ashton day centre.

Sandra Thompson (Sahara Dance)

My name is Sandra Thompson and I’m principal of Sahara Dance which provides several weekly adult dance classes in the Hull & Humber region (age range 17 – 70+) including Arabic dance (Belly dance) Bollywood, Latin, Jazz & Tap.

Having taught dance for many years and experienced the benefits that all students derive from it both social and physical I recently made the decision to diversify into teaching dance to people with learning difficulties, something I have been thinking about for some time.

For the last 9 weeks I have been working together with another dance teacher at the George Ashton Day Centre, it’s a large group and there is a wide range of disability, both mental health and physical, so it is quite challenging from a teaching point of view. However, for me it is proving to be one of the most rewarding experiences I have had in my teaching career.

This is the first time I have collaborated with another teacher to run dance sessions and it has proved to be very productive for me. Having someone else to bounce ideas off and to be able to discuss and monitor the sessions and adapt where necessary to enable us and the participants to gain the maximum from them is invaluable for the progression of any teacher and I have thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience.

The reason it worked so well, I believe is that we are from different genres and because of this the sessions were more diverse in their content. The ability to transfer from one teacher to another also made it more interesting for the group. Plus the energy level remained high throughout the session as the intensity was easier to maintain on a shared basis.

Taking all this into account, for me it has been a great asset to teach in this format, it makes you think and be more adaptable and stretches you as a teacher. As like most dance teachers we work alone with our own methods and style, so to be able to partner up with another teacher from a different genre and to see the differences but also the similarities in teaching I found very rewarding and enjoyable.
From a slow start, as is the case with most classes of any type, each week has built as they have become more responsive and interactive. Watching each of them blossom in their own way and seeing their enjoyment in taking part in these sessions is quite something. We all know the benefits that inclusive dance can give, both physically and emotionally to the student but I would like to add, that for the teacher it also gives so much back.

As I said it is challenging with such a diverse group but within these challenges it makes you more aware and it helps you broaden your approaches to teaching and all the different methods that can be utilised. This said the personal experience I’m having teaching this group is by far the most important to me.

Music and dance have always been my passion and one which I love to share and that’s what makes this experience for me so special because they give back that sharing in spades. To see individuals who at first isolated themselves from the group become more interactive and to see the joy on their faces when they all dance and have fun together is amazing and my heart swells to see the progress they make each week it really is a wonderfully uplifting experience.

I have gained so much from teaching this group both as a teacher and as a person and putting aside the challenges they face through their disabilities, they are like any other group, they want to have fun, enjoy themselves and share their pleasure with you. So for one hour we dance, as a group, everyone participating, everyone included and that for me is just magical.


April 2015