For those who don't know Candoco are going through a big 9 month organisation re-development. The aim is to research into the needs and wants of the sector to support the proposal to create a centre for excellence. As part of this they have been holding series of debates and discussions entitled Curiosity, Choice, Challenge and Change.
The first event, entitled Curiosity, was at Laban and it was an Open Space event chaired by Jo Verrent. An amazing opportunity for people from across the dance sector and the disability sector and the disability arts sector to get together and talk about the changes they would like to see. The problems that have arisen and solutions that they feel would make a difference.
I started off the day feeling inspired as the turn out was fantastic with many different influential members of the community there. By the end I felt disheartened as the same questions and issues are still being asked/brought up! One group even made a separate group for disabled artists where they basically slagged off the company. How is this moving on? What good will come of keeping the segregation. Maybe I shouldn't get my back up so easily as these are the issues that Candoco need to see and hear in order to create such a centre. They need to break down these barriers and hopefully find a common ground for everyone to feel equal. However, playing devil's advocate, I also feel people enjoy the moaning and would be lost if the issues surrounding inclusive dance were resolved.
However I do feel there is another area that the organisational re-development may not actually be able to educate and that is- Society! The opinions of people who dont work within the integrated dance sector and the general public are surprisingly dated. I really worry about trying to make changes within relation to the inclusive dance sector when the actual world is still not inclusive. It sometimes feels like we are preaching to the converted all the time.
A few weeks ago at the YDE conference I felt the inclusive nature within the day was nearly invisible from the other delegates that were present. It is not the big things like speaking about disability or being inclusive but it is the small day to day things that really seem to be lacking from the general public.
For example, the main auditorium only had wheelchair spaces down at the front and the access for getting down there was a total different entrance to where everyone else entered from, which I suppose is not that odd as even QEH has a similar set up. However, everyone who was attending the event stayed sitting up the back leaving about 10 rows of gap between the 3 wheelchair users down the front and them. I think if everyone was thinking inclusively they would have mushed down as the seats were certainly not allocated. This may sound trivial but just because some people use wheelchairs as a means to get around it does not mean that they dont want to sit beside anyone else and network like the rest of the delegates were doing.
Another bone to pick with the day was that the wheelchair users had to use half of their lunch time to get form one building to the next for their lunch because non-disabled delegates kept using the lifts!!! And when they finally came they had to try and chase the waiters around which meant having to hop in and out of lifts. Instead of a waiter saying "oh sorry they are serving those burgers downstairs" she could have said "wait here Il go and get them for you". Just A bit of common sense would not go astray sometimes.
People say to me when I get all hung up like this that I need to remember that I am used to being around different people now and therefore it is second nature to me, but I only half agree with that. I think I am naturally curious and that is why I fit in with Candoco so well, because we all have this common trait. We are interested in people. I feel if society and schools had a different way of approaching disability earlier then society wouldn't be so segregated.
The redevelopment will be amazing as long as Candoco are loud and proud about what they do. I am not saying be aggressive as I hate this and in my opinion it does not work and I wouldn't fund these people either. However sitting on the fence doesnt achieve much either and I feel we the company have done that in the past, which I love as they never got involved in the nitty gritty dirt that has evolved but now I feel they have to. I think the company will be able to move things forward well if people continued to support and not hate.
I know that not just the dance world would be a better place if this re-development really did produce a centre for excellence. It will be a place for open information and constant research and the whole world will be able to see dance and people within dance in a new light.