Inclusive practice appears to act as a catalyst, enabling us to stretch and develop what it is we already know and do, but at a deeper level of engagement, one that is more awake and aware. Jo Verrent considers the innovative work being delivered within Scottish Dance Theatre and its impact on the dance sector and beyond.
5 September 2011
Inclusive practice appears to act as a catalyst, enabling us to stretch and develop what it is we already know and do, but at a deeper level of engagement, one that is more awake and aware. The discussions are not about access or equality, instead they are about new ways of thinking, new opportunities for engagement with a wider and wider pool of creative talent, serving both to widen and deepen the possibilities for the creative practices and products of the future.
In 2008, a mainstream dance company - Scottish Dance Theatre – employed dance artist Caroline Bowditch as their Dance Agent for Change in what began as a two-year programme to act as a catalyst for change in both dance and disability (now extended until 2012). Caroline undertakes a wide variety of activity with the company – including choreographing and performing – including within pieces on national tour, developing and delivering outreach work, training, consultancies and public speaking. The response to the role has been strongly supportive, both externally from audiences, the media and the arts infra structure and also internally from other dancers, the company and the Dundee Rep, where they are based. The recent impact report  on the programme seeks to map some of positive shifts, illustrating the seismic movements being created:
'If it seems a little noisy in Dundee at the moment, it’s because there’s some serious groundbreaking going on there. Under the forward-thinking eye of artistic director Janet Smith, Scottish Dance Theatre (SDT) is producing work which forces us to alter our perception of what dance is and, more importantly, who can dance.' The List
“As a performer and artist Caroline has a direct impact on the members of the company and on the audience who sees our shows. Sharing training as a dancer with her, having to teach a class where she takes part, working with her in the creative process… all this has enriched my knowledge as a dancer (and as a human being). Although I had been dancing for seven years as a professional in several companies across Europe, this is the first time that I could experience all this.” (Joan Lopez-Cleville, SDT)
Caroline is the embodiment of a dance agent for change. She continues to challenge my own thinking through her work both in advocacy and artistic practice. In fact it is the symbiotic relationship between these which I think is most profound and therefore having the most effective impact… Her personal generosity is infectious but also enables her to probe deeply in challenging the structures and assumptions which are prevalent within our (dance) culture. Quite simply, dance in Scotland is richer and more buoyant because of Caroline. (Anita Clark, Head of Dance, Creative Scotland).