Hoping to help in broadening access to dance, Allied Mobilitywill sponsor Kate Stanforth Academy of Dance every Friday for the rest of 2021 to facilitate disabled dancers getting involved with dance and encourage people of diverse bodies to give it a go for the first time.
For those with disabilities, including invisible illnesses, access to many aspects of public life can be a daily challenge, where accessibility is often taken for granted by non-disabled members of society. Unfortunately, this includes the arts sector: disabled individuals have struggled to be involved in cultural events and activities which are overwhelmingly planned or staged without diverse access requirements in mind.
Progress on disability inclusion is being made on a national and local scale – but this change is, importantly, being led by disabled individuals. Kate Stanforth’s dance school runs sessions that are suitable for all bodies, including an advanced technique class.
As Kate has invisible illnesses (her disability is non-visible),she has struggled with access to dance studios in the past. When she became unwell at age 14 with ME, followed byother chronic conditions, such as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Vasovagal Syncope and MCAD, Kate felt unable to continue her dream of being a professional dancer, even with her extensive background in dance (including starting training to be a ballerina at eight years old).
Thankfully, Kate got back into dance in 2020, hosting free weekly classes online during the coronavirus pandemic, where the increase in use of streaming events enabled Kate to attend events and classes which would otherwise have been difficult for her to access.
Accessibility for the arts sector
Without question, access to arts and culture is a crucial part of so many people’s enjoyment in life – whether that be film, music, dance, or another creative discipline. In the months following the implementation of government restrictions, it became clear how crucial the arts sector is to people’s social lives, with almost one in five people reporting that they missed the cinema or theatre most in the first lockdown in 2020. However, limited access to the arts has been a major issue for disabled people for far longer than this.
The importance of accessible environments cannot be overstated when it comes to inclusion in the arts. Indeed, Kate is an advocate for disability rights and the Disability Pride movement, pointing out that she has embraced her dance style as including her disability, creating unique dance and achieving impressive accolades, including working with the BBC and Channel 4.
Hopefully, with dance schools like the Kate StanforthAcademy of Dance, there will be wider inclusion and recognition of disabled dancers and spectators in the arts sector.