Anjali Dance Company explores and celebrates the creative potential of people with learning disabilities. Anjali’s central activity is creating original, high-quality dance work performed by learning-disabled dancers and toured nationally and internationally to theatres and arts venues.
Anjali’s Training Programme
Anjali Dance Company is unique in the UK in providing bespoke vocational training in Dance for people with learning disabilities. Anjali’s dancers receive a continuous programme of intensive, high-quality training equivalent to conservatoire work at higher education level. The training is provided by professionally-trained dancers, dance teachers and choreographers. It is comparable to vocational training that people without disabilities can obtain through the higher education system. Anjali also offers to other groups and organisations integrated education and outreach programmes which develop the teaching skills of people with learning disabilities.
Anjali’s dancers meet three days a week, 42 weeks a year. The main company trains for performances of full-length dance productions which are created with the help of skilled choreographers and dance artists, qualified technicians, designers and others. The activities undertaken by the dancers include company class, research and development of contemporary dance technique, consolidation of technique and complementary disciplines, ballet (including barre work), introduction to other styles of dance, physical theatre, music appreciation and strength and fitness training.
The dancers rehearse repertoire pieces and prepare work for performances. They create and work on individual development plans and on their own choreography (solos, duets and larger pieces). They research and develop new material and rehearse new work for premiere and touring. They also have ‘get to know you’ sessions with guest choreographers and teachers, prepare contributions to education and outreach activity and have sessions of planning, consultation, discussion and evaluation of their work.
The dancers have membership of a local Leisure Centre and attend fitness classes and the gym. They receive training on other related topics such as expectations of professional behaviour and healthy eating, and they are given study tasks to undertake in their own time. The training programme is supported by regular reports and an annual review with parents or primary carers.
Dance provides a safe and non-judgmental space in which everyone is accepted, valued and encouraged to make a creative contribution. Anjali’s training offers a way for people with learning disabilities to make profound and sustained progress in their lives in a supportive and motivating environment. Participants with learning disabilities are taught by professional dance artists and learn new skills and techniques, broadening their mental and creative horizons. The dancers also benefit from receiving strength and fitness training, health education and regular aerobic exercise.
Learning-disabled participants benefit greatly from being accepted and included in creative activities, and from having a platform for creative and artistic expression. They can develop a sense of self-worth, earn the respect of fellow artists and receive positive responses and appreciation from critics and audiences. Participation in performing arts activities is also an effective way of helping people with learning disabilities to acquire or improve life skills such as working as part of a team, developing confidence and social skills and becoming independent. Regular dance training also enhances information retention and memory and improves communication skills.
Vocational benefits include gaining knowledge of the requirements of a work environment and awareness of professional practice and standards. Participants learn to monitor their own progress and make personal learning plans. They take responsibility for time-keeping, preparation and readiness of personal equipment and they gain awareness of health and safety and equal opportunities.
A residential service is provided for dancers who travel to north Oxfordshire and need to stay in accommodation during the week. Learning-disabled participants who use residential facilities with support from Anjali gain experience in independent living and in life skills such as living communally. They learn how to cope with varied and changing schedules and how to make informed choices and they have space to develop friendships.