Able2Do Anything: Music & Arts

Dance company which works ‘with’ disabled students

students from Breakthrou'dance

In a typical dance group pupils follow their instructor to reach their full potential, but at Breakthrou’dance things are a little different.

Rachael Lines, founder of FRONTLINEdance follows a concept known as “co-creation” opposed to telling the disabled students what to do at her weekly classes in Stoke-on-Trent.

“We had conversations about different themes, challenges, things they would like to share, or to tell people about. We looked at the social model of disability, and how we could use that,”  Lines told The Guardian.

Those discussions led to Lines asking how dancing could show a series of emotions. “They would generate the movement, and then I would develop that, keeping all the key themes and finding commonalities, what visually looked exciting,” she explained.

In one dance performed by students with vision loss the routine highlighted how blind people can be pushed around in busy spaces.

“We created those barriers, the hustle and bustle, moving together with dropping, falling and catching, and knocking,” said Lines.

Using a co-creating method forms a closer learning experience between the teacher and their students.

“Historically, disabled people have had less of a voice, and fewer opportunities to be makers, dancers and choreographers or even audience members.” Lines highlighted.

Lines studied dancing skills at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance in Leeds. It was there, in the mid-90s, where she witnessed a performance from the Candoco dance company. “It was so fresh, nobody else was doing it,” she recalled. 

After suffering a back injury and experiencing hemiplegic migraines triggered by the light, Lines wanted to teach disabled people how to dance instead of performing on stage herself.

Starting out by forming an artist-led contemporary dance company for disabled people, Lines now runs projects across the country, including the one at Breakthrou’dance and entertaining patients stuck in hospitals.

Of the latter she said,  “they say we made them feel like they were alive and part of the world, which is brilliant – I really can’t ask for more.”

FRONTLINEdance also has connections with local art organisations so disabled people can offer advice on how performances can be more accessible by adding facilities such as audio description.

[ FRONTLINEdance also does one-off bespoke projects and performances, and welcomes commissions. ]

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