The first Dancing Together session, which is all genders, all mobilities, all ages, queer, community social dance, will be:
Saturday March 18 7:00pm-9:00pm
at Dance Victoria (2750 Quadra Street) at the back door (use the rear parking entrance on Market Street), in Lkwungen Territory. Sliding scale $0-20.
Note: Please do not use scented products on the day of the event.
The Facebook event page is at [link: March 18 Facebook event page].
Dancing Together brings together people with diverse genders and sexualities, people of diverse backgrounds, and people with diverse ways of moving, as well as friends, family and supportive people. Sessions are open to anyone who can 1) communicate consent (non-verbally or verbally) and 2) respect other people’s boundaries and gender identities. No previous dance experience is required.
On March 18th we will start with talking about how to respect other people’s boundaries and gender identities, such as asking for and receiving consent before engaging in contact such as holding hands, and not assuming what gender pronouns (if any) someone might use. We recognize this is a learning process and we can learn from our mistakes.
There will then be a 30 or 40-minute introductory lesson in gender-inclusive & mixed-abilities partner dance. This will include a chance to try the dance roles of inviting and responding (“leading” and “following”), ways of moving through space together (with options of moving with space between us or with contact such as holding hands), and options for spins / turns / going around each other. There is no need to come with a dance partner. After the learning time there will be a venue washroom discussion, followed by some freestyle social dance time, for practicing what we learned or free-form dancing. After dancing we will brainstorm about what types of dance we would like to try in future sessions.
Want to receive updates about sessions?
To be added to the group’s email listserv, please [link: contact us].
The group is looking for people to help with a variety of shared roles, which are described in this [link: invite to get involved on Saturdays]. There will be a Dancing and Planning session on March 11 from 3:30pm-5:30pm for people helping out.
Want more info about the group and other upcoming dates?
Dancing Together, inclusive social dance lessons for people with diverse genders, sexualities, backgrounds and ways of moving; will start this Spring! It will be on one or two Saturdays per month, with alternating start times of 3:30pm and 7:00pm, in Quadra Village in Lekwungen Homelands. For a detailed description of the sessions, please click [link: Dancing Together group overview].
Would you like to help Dancing Together sessions happen in a good way?
The group is looking for volunteers for a variety of shared roles: music, sound, “on call” team (access support/ safer spaces), movement translators, sign language teachers, co-facilitators, fundraising, social media, postering, first aid, set-up/clean-up, and zine-making.
There are options both for volunteers who want to dance and those who don’t want to dance. There may also be opportunities for people who like drawing, sewing hems, translating languages, providing informal audio description, assisting with ASL interpretation, Braille embossing, website updating and graphic design.
If you’d like to be involved, please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org and include the following:
1) Which is the first session date you will be attending? (Session dates are March 18 from 7:00pm-9:00pm, likely April 22 from 7:00pm-9:00pm, and more dates will be confirmed in April on [link: group page]; volunteers are asked to arrive 15 minutes before the session start time)
2) Is there a group role/s that you are interested in, or do you have experience or skills in a certain aspect that you would like to share?
Want your email added to the group’s listserv, or interested in donating to the sessions?
The group has started a collaborative google-document to compile favourite anti-oppressive songs for dancing, including suggesting songs of musicians with dancey music who are trans, gender variant, queer, Indigenous, people of colour, and/or living with disabilities; and discussing and/or flagging songs with lyrics that might be problematic, oppressive, and/or not trauma-informed. If you would like to contribute to the music ideas document, please be in touch.
Here is a draft description of the various roles:
*If you would like to try something you’ve never done before and would like support learning what’s involved, let a co-facilitator know at a session or by email, as we could organize skills-shares or mentoring this Spring. (: *If you have experience in a role and would like to share what you have learned or co-mentor, let a co-facilitator know at a session or by email. (:
Co-facilitators: people who love dancing, have a strong understanding of consent, and are committed to learning inclusive language and practices. We’re gathering together a collective of co-facilitators that includes Indigenous people, people of colour, people living with disabilities, intersex people, and two-spirit, trans, nonbinary and/or gender-variant people. Co-facilitators might take turns, with 2-3 people co-facilitating each session. It will be a paid position, although the honourarium amount will be dependent on how many donations come in at each session.
Sound: people who take turns hanging out near the stereo to press play, pause, and adjust volume.
Music:people who collaborate or take turns creating a playlist either just for the freestyle part of sessions (30-45 minutes), or for the whole session (90 minutes), in consultation with that week’s co-facilitators. Guidelines for songs: aiming for lyrics that are consensual, anti-oppressive and friendly for all ages.
Fundraising team: people who help the group seek donations and write grant applications. Costs include accessibility needs (such as having bus tickets available, hiring a translator or sign language interpreter when needed, etc.), space rental, honourariums for co-facilitators and guest instructors, buying rad music that people request, printing the zine (find an organization to sponsor photocopying?), etc.
“On call” team (access support/ safer spaces): people who participate in sessions but are available for people to connect with if an issue comes up during a session, and who take turns being by the door.
The group is currently drafting safer spaces guidelines (e.g. adapting from the guidelines for Alt Pride’s All Bodies Swim and Homospun dances), and will be brainstorming protocols for situations that may arise. The “on call” team will need to decide on how to note who is “on call” (e.g. with a green heart safety pinned to the back of the “on call” people’s shirts/tops like Homospun, with green fabric tied around an arm like the Stolen Sisters Memorial March organizers, or with hankies/ fabric if we can figure out a pattern that doesn’t already have connotations?)
Movementtranslators:people who help translate dance instructions into a variety of options based on needs and abilities. During lessons a small group could hang out beside the instructors and offer examples of ways of interpreting dance steps (e.g. seated, moving an arm instead of feet, partner dancing without holding hands, etc.).
Sign language teachers: people who teach the group a few new signs at the beginning of each session to do with consent (“yes”, “no”, “stop”, “I’m sorry”, “is this okay?”, “do you want to hold hands?”, “awesome, thank-you”, “you’re welcome”, etc.), dancing (“fast”, “slow”, “which role?”, “you choose”, “freestyle”, etc.) and accessibility (“options”, “if sitting”, “if standing”, etc.); and who are available to support/teach co-facilitators and “on call” people signs related to their roles (“are you okay?”, “do you want support?”, etc.).
Social media and posters: people who, in collaboration with the group, create facebook event pages and posters, poster, handle social media, compile a list of relevant groups and calendars for sending updates to, etc.
First aid: people with current certification in first aid and CPR, who are available to assist if a participant has a sudden illness or injury.
Set-up/ clean-up: people who can arrive 20 minutes early and/or stay 15 minutes after to help move chairs and tables to/from the studio, sweeping the floor if needed, etc.
Zine-making team: people who like to draw, create art, compile resources, edit, summarize or do layout to create a Dancing Together zine in collaboration with co-facilitators and “on call” team, from around April – October 2017. The resource zine could include summaries about consent in dance, acknowledging the peoples of the land, pronouns, confidentiality, safer spaces, conversation starter ideas, inappropriate questions, anti-colonial gender-inclusive all-abilities dance, cultural appropriation vs. cultural exchange, and local resources for emotional support. Once it’s ready, copies of the zine will be available at sessions and can be referred to as things come up. Once the group creates a website, the resource info could go online as well.
For any questions, or to get involved, please [link: contact us].
There is a new article about local adaptive dance opportunities that I (Joanne Cuffe) wrote in collaboration with the Victoria Disability Resource Centre for their blog: An Invitation to Dance. (Update: I am including the article below along with all of the photos with alt text descriptions, as most of the photos did not get transferred when the VDRC switched to a new website.)
An Invitation to Dance
Four months ago dance was not at all on Kristian OakenShield’s radar screen. But that definitely changed one day in September at MOVE gym, when, by chance, he encountered a Dance Without Limits session. It looked like great fun and he joined in.
Now the program, which is run by the Cerebral Palsy Association of BC, is part of his life, and he works as a volunteer at their dance sessions.
Kristian says he likes “moving the body in ways I would not normally, being creative with my imagination, and being more in tuned and aware with my body.” After dancing he feels “inner excitement and inner happiness–I know I am getting out of my comfort zone.”
Dancing has an extensive array of health benefits and it is fantastic for physical, emotional, cognitive, spiritual and social well-being. Studies have found that dancing can decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety, lessen pain, minimize isolation, help heal trauma, promote healthy aging, and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Dancing can also improve range of motion, balance, coordination and agility; increase muscular strength and endurance; and benefit the heart and lungs.
Kristian is an active member of MOVE gym and has been attending other dance workshops there too. He says his own specific goal is “to use dance to help me progress further in my quest to regain full function of my physical body.” He says he also gets real satisfaction from volunteering in dancing “to help enrich other people’s lives.”
Kristian’s advice to a peer, who wants to try an inclusive dance class but feels hesitant, is: “Just make a decision to take action and try it out and watch what happens.”
Dancing can be an amazing way of bringing people together, as communities have done around the world for a very long time. Dancing in a supportive setting can help meet a variety of basic human needs: for connection, acceptance, belonging, closeness, mutuality and respect; for autonomy, choice, freedom and spontaneity; for joy, humour, movement and safe physical contact; and for celebration, contribution, creativity, harmony, inspiration, meaning and self-expression. (This list draws from the Needs Inventory by the Center for Nonviolent Communication.)
The adaptive dance scene is varied and growing in Victoria in Lekwungen and W̱SÁNEĆ Territories.
In June 2016 five community dance groups came together for a Celebration. Each group shared the dance they had created in collaboration with artist facilitators, and everyone mingled during a dance party. Participants included dancers with diversabilities, dancers who are older adults, and dancers who are refugees and newcomers. The event was hosted by the Dance Alchemy project and the Community Arts Council of Greater Victoria, with funding from the BC Arts Council.
On January 4th there was a follow-up event called Dancing in the Morning that welcomed all abilities; 45 people gathered to dance at 10:30am at Cedar Hill Recreation. Participants were enthusiastic and are interested in the inclusive event happening once a month, if we can find a large accessible space that is available on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday from 10:30-11:30am.
Locally there is a group focused on creating opportunities for inclusive social dance, with sessions starting in March. Dancing Together brings together people with diverse ways of moving, as well as queer, trans and gender-variant communities, to try different types of social dance (such as tango) and learn to improvise together respectfully. This is a welcome development, as many dance classes and clubs around town are inaccessible to many community members, whether it is due to the venue not being physically accessible, the cost being a barrier, or the teaching style of the instructors not being inclusive or welcoming.
As well as public classes, there are also a variety of ongoing dance groups that happen through organizations around Victoria in Lekwungen and W̱SÁNEĆ Homelands. I am honoured to facilitate dance groups with people with diverse ways of moving, perceiving and interacting, with six disability-focused organizations and nine organizations focused on Elders and older adults.
In recent years I have led dance sessions with around 1900 unique participants, aged 4 years old to 103 years young. I live with invisible disabilities, and I notice that my sense of joy and well-being is drastically increased when I dance during the day in a community setting, compared to days when I do not dance.
I asked a few participants with one of the dance groups for their reflections on the sessions. Linda, Renee, Johnny and Lawrence all said that they had not taken a dance class before attending sessions at Kardel’s Futures program. Renee said she likes that she gets to help pick the music and that there are “no bad moves.” Linda likes “everything,” and Lawrence noted that “it’s fun AND Joanne plays Cantonese songs.” Johnny said, “I feel great after dance,” and Renee and Linda said they feel energized.
There have been integrated dance initiatives locally in the past, including by Geoff McMurchy, Dance Victoria, Lori Hamar, Brad Magnus and Dance Encounters. There are also examples from around the world of inclusive dance initiatives that believe that ‘if you can breathe you can dance,’ including Sins Invalid, which focuses on disability, sexuality and social justice, andDanceAbility International, which offers teacher trainings.
There are many professional dance companies elsewhere that are physically integrated, where artists with and without disabilities collaborate, such as Candoco Dance, AXIS Dance, and ILL-Abilities International Breakdance Crew. “Mixed ability dance is an approach that is accessible to all bodies and all abilities, including people with physical, developmental, sensory and neurological disabilities,” wrote the All Bodies Dance Projectin an article about attending the first Canadian Inclusive Dance Teacher Intensive in February 2016. The people involved in dance companies in other cities are in dialogue, including All Bodies Dance Project in Vancouver, Propeller Dance in Ottawa, MoMo Mixed Ability Dance Theatre in Calgary, CRIPSiE in Edmonton, and Corpuscule Danse in Montréal.
Although the dance sessions mentioned earlier in this article are focused on being beginner-friendly, if there is interest, we could train together in the coming years and create an inclusive dance company here, too.
Emily J. danced with MoMo Dance in Calgary for three years and now lives on the island. “I’ve met some of my favourite people through dance – people who show me exceptional ways of being in the world. Dancing has generated new possibilities for intimate love and care, and moments of change and joy that I might not have had otherwise.”
Its Happening in Victoria
Lots of opportunities to participate in adaptive dance in the Victoria area:
Inclusive dance for adults:
Adaptive Dance, Mondays 1:00-1:45pm at Cedar Hill Recreation; although the January class is full, if the waitlist fills up we will schedule another class. We are fundraising to have an All Abilities Dance Groupthere this April in collaboration with MOVE Adapted Fitness, facilitated by Joanne Cuffe. Learn more about the Adaptive Dance class.
50+ dance troupe, Mondays 2:00-3:30pm at Cedar Hill Recreation, all abilities welcome. The group is also open to adults younger than 50, and is free thanks to support from Saanich Parks & Recreation and Made in BC. Learn more about the 50+ dance troupe.
Dancing in the Morning, inclusive dancing events that bring together participants from day programs and interested community members, on a Mon., Tues. or Wed. at 10:30am, happening a few times per year (or more often if a venue/ sponsors are found). Learn more about the “Dancing in the Morning” events.
To be in touch about the Dance Alchemy project,or community dance programs (sessions can happen on-site at local organizations, residences and community centres), contact Joanne Cuffe.
Opportunities to dance with other instructors:
Motion Ways, a custom dance/ exercise program tailored for individuals with neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s, epilepsy, peripheral neuropathy, multiple sclerosis, and acquired brain injury, Mondays 11:15am-12:15pm until April 10, at Gordon Head Rec Centre, a program of HeadWay, instructed by Lindsay Beal. Learn more about the motion ways program.
Juan de Fuca Social Club, weekly dances that are geared towards people with disabilities, Wednesdays 7:00-8:30pm at Juan de Fuca Seniors Centre: Learn more about the programs at Juan de Fuca(description for dance and drama programs is on page 42 in the January guide).
Dance Without Limits, free classes for children and youth with various disabilities, on Tuesdays 5:15-6:00pm until March 28, drop-ins welcome, at MOVE Gym, a program of the Cerebral Palsy Association of BC, instructed by Jordan Dalley. Learn more about Dance Without Limits.
Chair Exercise, a dance class for people living with multiple sclerosis and anyone else interested in a seated dance/exercise class, Tuesdays 12:15-1:15pm until Feb. 28, at Silver Threads Victoria, a program of the MS Society of Canada, instructed by Katrina Pavlovski. Learn more about the chair exercise class.
Dancing in the Morning: an inclusive dance session
Wed. Jan. 4th, 2017
at Cedar Hill Recreation Centre’s auditorium (3220 Cedar Hill Road), in Lekwungen (Songhees) and Xwsepsum (Esquimalt) Homelands.
All abilities welcome.
Please refrain from wearing perfume/scented products on the day of the event; thank-you.
(Donations welcomed: all funds raised will go to the Dance Alchemy project, for dance sessions with people who are refugees and newcomers.)
Dancing in the Morning brings together participants from various community dance groups and interested community members. The event is hosted by Dance Alchemy & the Community Arts Council of Greater Victoria, in partnership with Saanich Parks & Recreation, and facilitated by Joanne Cuffe.
Session details: There will be a warm-up in a big circle, dance activities for meeting new people and interacting in smaller groups, a dance party, and a cool-down in a big circle. There are chairs available if you would like to be seated some or all of the time.
If you would like to donate but cannot attend the event: please donate by cheque to the Community Arts Council of Greater Victoria with “Dance Alchemy” in the memo line (or donate online through CACGV’s website) and please send a note to Joanne with your name so that we can make sure your donation is allocated to the dance sessions with people who are refugees and newcomers. Thank-you very much! For a description of the project, please see the Dance Alchemy page.
If you require support to participate, please come with a caregiver, friend, staff or translator. Thank-you! We very much apologize that there are not accessibility funds available for this event (e.g. no bus tickets, etc.).
Dancing in the Morning on Jan. 4th is focused on adults. Participants from day programs, group homes, seniors’ residences, dance groups and local communities are welcome. If you are part of a group that will be attending the event together, please RSVP estimating how many will be in your group.
To be in touch: for questions and accessibility requests, please contact Joanne.
Optional photo area: Please note that there will be two designated areas in the room throughout the event: 1) an area near the main entrance for people who do not want to be in any photos, and 2) an area at the far end of the room for people who fully consent to being in photos at the event. Joanne Cuffe will be the caretaker of the photos, which will be used in spreading the word about community dance initiatives with Dance Alchemy (see below), the Community Arts Council of Greater Victoria, Saanich Parks & Recreation and Creative Momentum (this website).
The Dance Alchemy project began in 2015 through the Community Arts Council of Greater Victoria and facilitated by Joanne. In 2016 four artists collaborated with four community dance groups, with people with diverse abilities, older adults, and newcomers, and five dance groups came together for a Celebration in June 2016, with funding from the BC Arts Council.
Participants with the Wellspring dance group came up with the idea of having an event inspired by the Friday Namaste Music program but focused on dancing.
Dancing in the Morning is focused on everyone present being participants. The next time the event happens, it could also include a bit of time for performing, if a few dance groups would like to each share a dance they have created as a group.
If you have a suggestion for an accessible venue for future Dancing in the Morning sessions, please be in touch (the Cedar Hill Rec Auditorium is booked most weekday mornings except Jan. 4th). Thank-you.
This is an invitation to join a new dance group, which will be shaped by participants’ interests:
50+ Dance Troupe *the group will come up with its actual name once it meets.
Mondays 2:00pm-3:30pm At Cedar Hill Recreation (3220 Cedar Hill Rd) in the Dance Studio. Free. Facilitated by Joanne Cuffe in partnership with Saanich Parks & Recreation.
Oct. 17 – Nov. 14 (5 weeks): Dancing + Brainstorming sessions. Sessions include an hour of movement (a warm-up and guided improvisation activities for moving as a group) and a half-hour of brainstorming ideas and discussing what everyone is interested in.
All abilities welcome. No prior dance experience needed.
50+ is just a suggestion; adults under 50 are welcome too if there is room.
No need to register – just come by the dance studio on the dates that you can make!
If you are interested in the dance troupe but not available this autumn, there will be an opportunity to join the group in the New Year (there will be an intro session on Monday Jan. 23rd at 2:15pm-3:30pm at the Cedar Hill Recreation Dance Studio).
I would like to invite you to join me for the only dancing for wellbeing public offering I have this season: Dancing into Wellbeing: A Creative Toolkit for Stress, Saturday Feb. 27th at Royal Roads University. We will be dancing in two lovely rooms – a big hall, plus a field trip to a foyer with windows looking out to the sea and forest – these are my favourite spaces for dancing!
Although I have facilitated 450 dance sessions since the last workshop I facilitated at Royal Roads in November 2014… that workshop is my favourite session thus far (with a close runner-up of a Dancing for Wellbeing workshop I led on a Saturday in November 2015). I have found that there is something especially nourishing about moving throughout a full day together, with a mix of moving on our own in solitude and connecting with each other and as a group.
The description and registration link are on this continuing studies page. Registering by Feb. 12th is recommended. There is also one work-trade spot available (If you are excited about the workshop but cost is a barrier, please be in touch. Later this year there will also be sliding-scale opportunities to dance.)
For the workshop, I have woven in the activities that participants have found the most powerful/fun/useful at dancing for wellbeing classes and workshops in recent years. The activities integrate concepts from the dozens of teachers with whom I have studied, as well as the movement practices that I rely on when I feel overwhelmed.
My apologies for being so quiet online since the spring. Dance programs have been very busy and lovely with new locations across the region; however this has had a side effect: I have not had a chance to send newsletters, tweet, or post updates. And, I have missed being in touch with participants from dancing for wellbeing and dance for brain health sessions while classes paused for the summer.
Although I usually focus on updates that highlight a particular location, today my theme is numbers, which feels a bit odd. Yet numbers seem like a useful way to summarize the beautiful whirl of the past while, and to offer more context (/an alibi) for why I have been offline. As an example, during the past 7 days, I have danced with 132 participants, including 20 new people, at 13 locations. It’s an honour to connect and be creative with so many fun people.
In the past 6 months I have met 395 new participants at programs…. I find it quite tricky to keep track of so many people’s names – although at least there are some repeated names, such as on Saturday there were 4 people with the name Joyce across 3 locations! I started keeping tally of numbers of participants in 2012; in the past 3 years I have danced with around 1152 unique participants, at more than 50 locations.
Over the past 5 workdays, I have bicycle commuted 80 kilometers. This is likely a record, as I do not usually go around to so many neighbourhoods in the same week. This week involved 10 different areas in Lekwungen and WSANEC homelands: Oaklands, Saanichton, Brentwood Bay x2, Burnside-Gorge, Gordon Head, Vic West, James Bay x3, Esquimalt, Swan Lake, Cadboro Bay, and tomorrow involves Sidney (…although I will bus both ways tomorrow). I am grateful that for autumn, it has been possible to set up my schedule so that sessions in the same neighbourhood are on the same day.
Recently, I am often out of the office from 10am-4:30pm with programs, and then I spend time in the office to prepare activities, playlists and props, and to follow up about logistics for programs (with ~20 organizations and workshops at 5 locations).
And, one of my favourite numbers from this summer: I spent 7 nights camping at Long Beach/ Tofino in Tla-o-qui-aht in early August. My family came together for it, from Gatineau/Ottawa, Nicaragua and Burnaby, and it was also where I met my delightful 4-month-old nephew for the first time.
I hope that summer has treated you and family as well as possible, and that we get to catch up and dance soon!
During February and March, I had a wonderful time moving with a group of graceful dancers at the Victoria Immigrant & Refugee Centre. We did many group improvisations together, as well as dancing in two’s; this group is amazing at moving as a collective!
From the poster for the six-week series: “Relaxing classes for the newcomers that will help you: Learn English in a fun and friendly setting, Make new friends, Stay healthy with light exercises, Relax and have fun.”
We took some photos (a few blurry) on March 24th, during the last session; participants wanted to dance with ribbons:
“No matter what age, race, sex or ability one may have, everyone can dance. Dance is within all of us. Some choose to share it with others and some choose to keep it to themselves. “Life is a dance whether we know it or not. We are constantly dancing with every movement we make, with every breath we take, and with every beat our hearts make, a rhythm is being created. It’s the slightest movements that make the greatest difference in a performance, just like in life it’s the little things that matter. “Dance is the connection between you and the universe; while we are dancing we are developing ourselves based on the energy, the emotions, and the challenges we experience. It is up to us to determine how we want to communicate our dance to the world. “Dance is the ultimate form of self-expression and it is the escape that always reminds us that everything is going to be ok. Dance challenges us to surpass our limitations by discovering strength within. “So, live your life to the fullest and dance beautifully!”
His bio from the CDA website:
“Luca ‘Lazylegz’ Patuelli is the founder and creator of the ILL-Abilities™ Crew, an international b-boy crew comprised of the world’s best “Ill-abled” dancers and co-founder of Projet RAD, Canada’s first inclusive urban dance program offering programming out of accessible dance studios across Québec. Patuelli was born with a birth defect that required him to use crutches from an early age. His signature style incorporates crutches and upper-body strength and has garnered him international recognition. Among his many achievements was headlining and co-directing the Paralympic Opening Ceremonies in Vancouver. Luca is also known for his appearance on So You Think You Can Dance Canada Season 3 as the only dancer with a disability on any of the SYTYCD franchises to make it into Finals Week.”
A regular highlight of my week is connecting with residents at the Douglas Care Community, for a Move to Music session on Wednesday mornings. There is much laughter and playfulness; adaptive dancing, with relevant music, is excellent for engaging with people who are experiencing memory loss.
After each session I rate how it felt to me, in terms of connecting and engaging with participants, out of 5 stars (with 5 stars meaning ‘great’). The past couple months’ sessions here have felt like: 6 stars, 7 stars, 9 stars (a new record), 6 stars, 3.5 stars, 7 stars, 6 stars, and 8 stars. Thank-you to Leslie for impromptu photos of us with an Octaband (star/ sunshine/ octopus) dance prop a few weeks ago: