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Press Article

Disability Times
July August 1998
editor - Marilyn Graves

Awakening the Joy of Sharing:

Forging links: exploring new relationships through dance

Physical disabilities

It was to be a first for everyone when the Gloucestershire Dance Project decided to bring together a group of children with physical disabilities from Chamwell School in Longford to work with non-disabled pupils from Longlevens, a local primary school. The project, Awakenings, was to use dance and music to forge links between the two schools and perhaps more importantly to "awaken" new possibilities and relationships on a personal level for all involved.

The children from Longlevens were carefully selected, as everyone was aware of the necessity to choose young people who had the sensitivity and patience needed, and who would benefit most from the experience. The children were divided into groups, and each Longlevens pupil was paired with a child with disabilities from the Chamwell School. The youngsters had the opportunity to meet each other the week before the project so the initial process of getting acquainted was already begun when they came together on the first day.

The project was led by dancer and teacher Jasmine Pasch, who has a wealth of experience in work of this kind. "At first", says Jasmine, "everyone was nervous as to how the week would develop but by the end of the first day it was obvious we were involved in something that would turn out to be quite extraordinary and very special."

It helped that the children from both schools were used to dance work so were open and receptive to working with Jasmine and her team.

It was so exciting to see the friendships develop as the young people explored ways of communicating and working together," remembered Jasmine.

She felt it important that the young participants should come to the dance sessions on equal terms. For this reason the Chamwell children were encouraged to leave behind their chairs and other 'hardware' and the staff were totally supportive of this approach. It was, says Jasmine, essential to the success of the project that the high level of support of staff from both schools was maintained. This support and receptiveness enabled Jasmine to concentrate on stretching the children and adults present, both creatively and imaginatively. The results, both in terms of movement achieved and the elements of trust and co-operation within the relationships formed, spoke for themselves.

Each day, the participants built on what had gone before adding extra lighting ideas and equipment to create atmosphere and construct a new environment. An important stimulus was provided by Ian Stewart, whose music was a masterful blend of stimulation and spirituality. The dance experiences changed and evolved too in response to the children's cues so that new experiences were added as the youngsters moved and learnt together and friendships developed.

On the last day all the groups came together to share their work in a performance at Chamwell School, in front of other students and staff. Everyone expressed their delight at having been a part of the project and their keenness that it shouldn't end there.

Sarah Shaw
Dance Development Officer
Gloucestershire Dance
Colwell Centre for Arts in Education
Derby Road
Gloucester GL1 4AD
(click on address to send an email to Gloucestershire Dance)

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