Promising Practices in Inclusive Dance Education at Australia’s Restless Dance Theatre

A dancer leaps across a dark stage while three other performers, all wearing red, watch.

Dancers Chris Dyke, Lorcan Hopper, Josh Campton, and Michael Hodyl of Restless Dance Theatre performs in Touched, a piece developed by the company’s Youth Ensemble. Photo: Andy Rasheed

Restless Dance Theatre describes its inclusive work as being “informed by disability.” The dance company, based in Adelaide, Australia, creates new works with its youth and senior ensembles, and conducts dance workshops for young people with and without disabilities. We spoke with Artistic Manager Roz Hervey about what makes Restless’ dance education programs work well for all students.

VSA and Accessibility: Can you cite some specific ways you adapt your Restless Central and Links workshops for students with disabilities?

Roz Hervey: We approach our workshops as we would approach our performances. Restless has developed a way of working where participants are given a series of creative challenges and asked to respond in movement. For example, we might ask two people to choose different ways to wrap themself around their partner’s body; the partner responds by removing him or herself from the wrap. Dance sequences are then built up from their responses. This produces unique, distinctive, and very striking dance through a process that nurtures the creative voices of the dancers.

Access requirements are built into the planning of the workshops. For example, when working with the South Australian School for Vision Impaired, the workshop used tactile props and a tactile border to define the space. We also engaged an audio describer to work with the creative team.

Your website specifically mentions that the youth ensemble and workshops are open to both students with and without disabilities. Can you talk a bit about the importance of the inclusive dance environment?

We embrace diversity and create an inclusive environment to be able to create real raw and uninhibited dance theatre. We don’t focus on people’s disability; instead, we highlight each individual’s unique personality and movement vocabulary.

How does Restless prepare their teachers for working in inclusive settings?

Every few years we run a Dot to Dot tutor training program (resource available online). Our tutors have usually started their journey with the company as one of our ensemble members, or have assisted our artistic director in the rehearsal room making a work. In all our workshops, we have a lead tutor, a senior tutor, and a tutor with disability. New tutors gain experience working with the lead tutor and eventually go on to lead workshops themselves. We encourage potential tutors to attend our Central workshop to gain knowledge about the company’s working methods.

Do you have any recommendations for arts organizations that want to make their education programming more inclusive of students with disabilities?

We would encourage organizations to have people with disabilities as part of planning sessions. Don’t be scared! Just ensure there is a positive and safe environment for everyone.

To learn more about Restless Dance Theatre, visit its website or follow the company on Facebook.

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