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Behind the Curtain

Dance & Disability: Opportunities for Involvement
By Susan McGreevy-Nichols
Posted on 6/16/2015 12:55 PM

The 1980s ushered in an era of acceptance for the disabled community to freely express themselves through dance both in the classroom and on the stage. Medical research has also evidenced the value of the arts to empower those with physical limitations. Today, the Dance & Disability movement is gaining steady momentum, and I am pleased to recognize that this topic is trending in national and local conferences; as well as in research and education.  

Photo courtesy of Annika Presley / Axis Dance Company


I would like to bring your attention to a conference which will be held in New York City on Wednesday, July 8. This free, day-long event focuses on the future for dance created and experienced with disabled New Yorkers. Commemorating the 25th anniversary year of the Americans with Disabilities Act, this event is hosted by Dance/NYC in partnership with the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, Art Beyond Sight, and Inclusion in the Arts. It builds on recent Dance/NYC research, Discovering Disability: Data and NYC Dance and is part of a three-year Dance/NYC initiative to increase inclusion and access to the art form. For more information, click here.  


AXIS Dance Company, founded in 1987 and known as “one of the world’s most acclaimed and innovative ensembles of performers with and without disabilities,” is also leading the charge. The company has been awarded a major grant from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation to host a national conference addressing the state of the field of physically integrated dance in the United States. The conference will be held in Washington, DC in May 2016 over three days. This will be an important advancement for the field as key stakeholders in physically integrated dance and conference participants will explore the opportunities and barriers for dancers with physical disabilities. For more information, click here.  


In advance of the conference, AXIS Dance Company is also conducting preliminary research by way of a short survey on integrated dance. The results of the survey will help determine the direction of the conference. I am asking for NDEO members to please take this 10 minute survey by June 30, 2015.  


Education and dialogue on this important topic is key, and that is why NDEO is also jumping on board and offering a professional development course, called OPDI-114: Teaching Dance to Students with Disabilities this Fall of 2015. Through this course, educators will learn instructional strategies for students with disabilities in the P-12 dance program. The course also addresses legislation related to students with disabilities, current issues for inclusion, people first language, characteristics of different disabilities, Individual Education Plans (IEP), Assessment and Goal development, accessible learning environments, and content and teaching modifications for learning in dance education.  


Your participation is vital! Please consider how you can get involved. At some point in all of our careers, we will encounter students with disabilities, and as dance educators we need to be equipped to reach these students. These opportunities are not limited to the disabled community, but are ways to promote inclusion and advanced teaching methodologies. As a dance community, we need to create strategies for working together to break down barriers and integrate best practices in our classrooms. Please join NDEO, and support Dance & Disability!   


Call to Action: Take the survey, register for the July 8th conference in NYC, sign-up for the OPDI 114 course, and put May 2016 on your calendar!    

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