When discussing 32 year old professional dancer Chris Pavia with his colleagues and friends at Stopgap Dance Company they tell you about a jovial, committed, diligent dancer, choreographer and teacher who's abilities in all there fields have progressed steadily over the last 18 years he has spent with the company.
Chris is also imbued with an infectious personality, a penchant for practical jokes and, according to founding company Artistic Director Vicki Balaam, a love for sleep;
"When I started working with him, the first thing that I noticed about him was his love of sleep! The first thing I had to teach him was that if he wanted to go to sleep, it couldn't be in the middle of the room it had to be to the side, ideally under a table. When I first asked him, he grinned - sleepily - and was snoring under a table within seconds."
Chris has been dancing since he was 16 years old when he was introduced to StopGap after he met Vicki in 1999, while taking part in dance classes at Ridgeway Community School in Farnham. Given the complete lack of pathways for dancers with learning disabilities to train in the profession (a problem that was even more pronounced 15 years ago) it was fortuitous that the two would meet. Vicki, a University of Surrey graduate had, four years previously, become fully committed to starting an inclusive dance company.
"Chris learnt to become a dancer at the same time that I learnt how to perform in the 'real' world, to teach and lead a dance company (and we both grew alongside Stopgap 'learning' to be a dance company in a way). So from the beginning we were all learning from each other. Chris taught me how to "see" ... to 'clean my eyes' each rehearsal and see the young man that moved before me, and it took me a while to gain the skills (and discipline) to actually see what he was achieving in each rehearsal and to understand his developments each day, rather than relying on what I thought I knew."
Formal training, a foundation GNVQ in performing arts at Brooklands College in Surrey, was available to Chris and he has fond memories of his time there but most of his training took place within Stopgap Dance Company.