Beacon Applied Theatre Training: Magpie Dance

Saturday 11th October 2014

A fully inclusive approach defines Magpie Dance’s approach to its teaching, performance and training.  This Continuing Professional development workshop was designed for a range of participants, including arts practitioners, teachers, students, support workers and researchers.  Together we learnt and shared Magpie’s key ideas and skills of facilitation through our own moving, dancing and making short creative performances.
This residency was designed and coordinated by Sian Stevenson, (StevensonThompson Dance company), and was supported by HEart and The Beacon Institute, which shares research interests in developing best practice in using the Arts for Health and Well-Being.  The whole day workshop led us through how Magpie Dance teaches inclusively to incorporate performers with the most challenging restrictions and a wide range of disabilities, yet they emphasised their commitment to creating high quality work. They do not define their work in terms of disability arts and this is common to the Beacon training programme that involves companies with commitments to the aesthetic and ethical in their work.   The workshop leaders, Alison Ferrao and Ali Kaviani, demonstrated and discussed many ways to engage, include and value each participant’s contribution to the group’s achievement in every session and over a course of a term or longer.
Each of us learnt something new to bring into our own practice and evaluation of participatory practice, whether a specific idea for exercises or ways to generate movement material through democratic, supportive and fun approaches.  A key feature was the use of live musician, Josh Brandler, on the drum kit, whose contribution demonstrated the importance of music and rhythm to the process of devising.  The choreographies were co-produced and altered depending upon the rhythms played in improvisation with the dancers.
The morning was spent experiencing a Magpie Dance workshop and the afternoon focussed on the rationale for the company’s distinctive approach.   The analysis of these creative processes and how to measure its success in engaging participants is fundamental to its work.  Magpie Dance’s founder, Avril Hitman explained how she formed the company and how it has evolved into its current form, delivering three strands of work; participation, performance and training.
“Inspiring and very moving…” “..never underestimate what someone can do…”  two participants’ thoughts shared at the end of the day