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Five minutes with All Bodies Dance Project

The next edition of our Discover Dance! series features All Bodies Dance Project. We sat down (virtually!) with All Bodies’ Co-Founder and Facilitator Naomi Brand to find out more. 

Tell us about All Bodies Dance Project

We are an inclusive dance company located on unceded Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil- Waututh), and xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam) territories (Vancouver, BC ).We offer free, inclusive community programming, for both professional dancers and people new to dance, and welcome people of all genders, abilities, and backgrounds. Through mentorship and training, All Bodies Dance Project supports an under-represented group of dancemakers, facilitators and artistic leaders with a unique set of values and approach to performance-making.

We have performed in theatres, airports, parks, gymnasiums, parking lots, and on screens. Our work straddles community-engaged and professional dance practice and invites different ways of experiencing dance. We put accessibility at the forefront of our artistic practice by working in a way that both questions and expands who has access to dance as makers, performers, participants, and audience members.

What is an inclusive dance company?

Great question, and to be honest, this is something that we are actively trying to figure out for ourselves these days. When we first began All Bodies Dance Project, we expected our work to be about disabled and non-disabled folks dancing together. We quickly realized from who showed up to our very first session that that binary between “people with and without disabilities” didn’t completely capture the beautifully complex range of lived experiences and identities that people were bringing with them to dance with us. Now we speak about our project as being focused on mining the artistic possibilities of differences: difference in ages, sizes, genders, backgrounds, identities, and bodies. What makes our work inclusive is that we try as best as we can to create spaces that genuinely celebrate and explore diverse ways of moving and perceiving. Our company thrives not despite our differences, but precisely because of our differences. That is the real exciting part of our work.

We do the best we can to remove barriers to participation in dance. Things like, offering our project for free, working in physically accessible spaces, having a scent-free policy, making sure there are gender neutral washrooms available, making ASL interpretation available, and perhaps most importantly working from the perspective that every body is a dancing body deserving of appreciation.

What inspired you and the other co-founders to create the company?

The group was founded in 2014 by Sarah Bourne (Lapp), Mirae Rosner and me with the intention of creating a space for integrated dance practice in Vancouver. At the time there was no place where a wheelchair user could fully participate in dance, nor was there any consistent space for inclusive dance practice. Since then, the project has expanded far beyond that to include multiple weekly classes, a performance ensemble, a youth project, a growing repertoire of works for the stage and the screen, and a broad community of collaborators and supporters.

Tell us about your upcoming Discover Dance! performance

We’re excited to share a mixed program for Discover Dance! featuring both works for the stage and the screen. The program includes a new duet created and performed by romham pàdraig gallacher in collaboration with Rianne Svelnis and a duet by Harmanie Rose and Peggy Leung, as well as our dance film project Near/Far that was created during the pandemic through a creative community process held over Zoom.This season, we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of Scotiabank Dance Centre.

What impact do you feel the building has had on the dance community, our city, and/or your own practice?

With so many dance spaces in the city (and the world) not physically accessible to us and our work, we have been able to make the 7th floor studios work for us during numerous residencies and rentals at Scotiabank Dance Centre. Every dance studio serves as a little bubble of safety outside of the unpredictability of the “real world.” Architecture holds memories and every dance floor carries traces of each rehearsal, class, performance, personal discovery, or community accomplishment that has occurred there. There are so many beautiful dancing experiences that All Bodies Dance Project has had in those studios and so the building holds a part of our history along with the stories of so many dancers in this city.

What is your next project?

We’re excited to return to our in-person community programming after nearly two years away and to focus some time and attention on rebuilding those in-person dancing connections that we’ve all lost during the lockdown. We all need to re-learn and re-invent ways of being together in creative community that feels both safe and nourishing and we’re honoured to be able to hold space through ABDP for people to do that. We are looking ahead to taking all the things that we’ve learned through Covid about how to care for one another and create access and let those inform the way we make art going forward.

The Dance Centre presents the Discover Dance! series

All Bodies Dance Project

Thursday March 24, 2022 | 12 noon

Scotiabank Dance Centre

Photos by Erik Zennstrom, Chris Randle

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