Integrated Dance Summit

Photo of outdoor durational performance by Noemi Lakmaier and Rachel Gomme. Featuring Rachel Gomme and members of the public.

Last week, we headed to an overwhelmingly sunny Bournemouth, to take part in the Integrated Dance Summit, organised by Pavillion Dance South West.

We have one dance supported-work as part of this round of Unlimited, Chisato Minamimura’s RING THE CHANGES+, which uses interactive technology to create an innovative sense experience.  Another supported piece is Ian Johnston’s Dancer, which is a gentle provocation on what it is to be a ‘dancer’.  A number of the research and development grants also include dance, or investitate the body in movement, such as Louise Coleman’s, Simon Fildes’, and the collaboration between Extant, Upswing and Yellow Earth.

So – we headed South-West to see what else is going on in dance.  Highlights of the 2 days included brilliant artists, outdoor performances under the sun (with the sea as a backdrop…what more could you want?), and a great bunch of open-minded programmers ready to discuss what work they could bring over to their venues and regions.  It all kicked off with a National Integrated Dance Network meeting (which, incidentally, are recruiting for a Development Director if that’s of interest to you), discussing the barriers for disabled artists to become leaders.  We also witnessed the launch of the splendid Diverse Futures platform, by Diverse City, mapping opportunities for disabled young people to engage with and train in the arts.

In my freelance work, I dabble between the world of dance, theatre and live art, and am often frustrated by the rigidity of the dance world, its common narrowness when it comes to ‘what is dance’ and to pushing definitions, limits and audiences’ expectations.

This summit changed things, though.  It got me really excited and hopeful about British dance –the work presented was really truly diverse, not only with the bodies on stage, but also in its forms and content…the word ‘cross-artform’ was mentioned loads (I spent 3 days at British Dance Edition, with ‘the best of British Dance’, and I didn’t hear it once).  It got me thinking – perhaps the future of British dance lies with disabled artists, whose bodies that don’t enter the ‘classic frame’ offer an opportunity to rethink what dance can be.

Because the Integrated Dance Summit showed me some amazing bodies, and told some moving stories.  A wheelchair bouncing on concrete, a finger followed by a body pushing itself out of a pile of sand, and a paralympian acting out advertising clichés.  Talk about sex, love, death, islands, beauty, time…

I left thinking what a success it was, that whole format of sharing work, talking about it, thinking about bringing it places, and how it should really exist for all artforms – not just dance struggling with its re-definition of the dancer’s body.  Allies, artists, across the arts…let’s have more of these wonderful gatherings!

If this blog has inspired you to dance, Big Dance are looking for lots of dancers for their special assignment 2014 in Trafalgar Square in London on the 12th July. Tempted? Register by emailing And spread the word!