Anjali Dance Company has created a radical new perspective for contemporary dance. Over the past nearly 30 years, the achievements of Anjali’s dancers have won them acceptance as performing artists in their own right. Their work has helped to change perceptions of the creative and artistic potential of people with learning disabilities.
Anjali’s dancers have worked with some of the UK’s best choreographers including Lea Anderson, Gary Clarke, Claire Russ, Matthew Hawkins, Charlotte Vincent and New Art Club. They have created ground-breaking dance programmes which have been performed throughout the UK and abroad, from the Royal Festival Hall, Royal Opera House and Sadler’s Wells in London to venues in Berlin, Lisbon and Mexico City.
Anjali’s dancers have gained in personal growth, confidence and artistic skill. They have been central figures in advocating aesthetic diversity and equal opportunities for people with learning disabilities. They frequently speak at conferences and seminars and they have appeared on television.
Anjali Dance Company was formed in 1995 at The Mill Arts Centre in Banbury, Oxfordshire, by Performing Arts tutor Nicole Thomson, who is now the company’s Artistic Director. Nicole had been inspired by seeing the work of a learning-disabled theatre company and had formed a strong belief in the creative potential of people with learning disabilities. She believed that learning-disabled people could be empowered to create exceptional art through dance and movement expression, demonstrating for the first time that people with learning disabilities could be capable of extraordinary and moving artistic creativity. From that vision Anjali Dance Company was born.
In 1998 Anjali embarked on a three-year training and touring programme called Moving On Up. As part of this programme, a triple bill called Moving Ideas toured in 1999. In 2000 the company was commissioned by the Royal Festival Hall to create a new work which was premiered at Blazing Dance Festival 2000. This work, Prosperous Beach, received a four-star review in The Guardian. As part of this festival, Anjali hosted a national debate about disability dance at the South Bank.
Anjali’s second programme, Through New Eyes, toured in 2001-2 to critical acclaim. The company performed Through New Eyes in the Purcell Room at the South Bank Centre in London, the first disabled dance company to perform at the South Bank before a paying audience. As a result of this, Anjali was invited to perform at London’s Royal Opera House with dancers from the Royal Ballet.
In 2003 Anjali developed the WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) touring programme. WYSIWYG fused technology, film and exhilarating dance. The production toured to 17 UK venues in 2003-4, including the Lilian Baylis Studio at Sadler’s Wells in London. Anjali’s dancers also performed WYSIWYG as the finale of the European Year of the Disabled festival in Lisbon, Portugal, the company’s first international performance.
In 2004 Anjali received funding from the Learning and Skills Council for a three-year accredited learning programme for dancers with learning disabilities. This programme included events at venues such as Modern Art Oxford and Milton Keynes Theatre and a collaboration with Oxford Brookes University.
The next production, Something Wild, toured successfully in the UK in 2006-7. Something Wild featured in Spring Loaded at The Place in London and was also performed at Berlin and Reutlingen in Germany.
Anjali’s highly successful youth dance company, Young Anjali, was formed in 2006. In 2007, Young Anjali appeared on Channel 4’s Three Minute Wonder in a specially commissioned film made in collaboration with Youth Dance England. Young Anjali was selected for five consecutive years to perform at the U.Dance National Youth Dance Festival run by Youth Dance England. The company has performed at venues which include Birmingham Hippodrome, London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall and Northern Ballet in Leeds.
Oxford Playhouse commissioned a series of solos, Unexploded Stories, which premiered at the Burton Taylor Studio in Oxford in 2008 and toured alongside other work in 2008-9. In 2009 Anjali was invited to present work at Decibel Festival in Manchester. T4Two was made for this festival and was subsequently toured with a selection of solos and duets in 2010.
In 2009 Anjali’s dancers performed a piece for the Opening Ceremony of the Summer Special Olympics before an audience of 25,000 people, and again at the Flame Lighting Ceremony for the 2012 Paralympics. The company made Fruit for Thought for Resolution 2011 at The Place in London. In 2012 T4Two played for two nights in Madrid.
In 2013 the company undertook research and development for a new show with choreographers Lea Anderson (founder and Artistic Director of The Cholmondeleys and Featherstonehaughs) and Gary Clarke, which culminated in a successful press launch and showing at the Royal Festival Hall in London. The two pieces which emerged from this process, Beethoven and Bloodsucker, were toured in the UK and abroad as Genius in 2017 and 2018.
In early 2017, Anjali was invited by the British Council to take part in an international seminar on Arts and Disability in Mexico City, where the company was presented as an example of what had been achieved in disability arts in the UK. Artistic Director Nicole Thomson spoke about Anjali’s experience as one of the world’s first learning-disabled dance companies. Dancers Hannah Dempsey and Daisy Garrett received a standing ovation when they performed a duet, The Reflection, as the main performance of the event. Anjali was invited back to Mexico to participate in two more festivals.