I am a Liverpool based choreographer/workshop leader with a disability. I have quadriplegia Cerebral Palsy and no verbal communication; therefore I choreograph using the Simpson Board, an inexpensive but priceless tool that enables disabled people to choreograph their own work. The board was created by choreographer Adam Benjamin, Co-founder of CandoCo Dance Company (1990 – 98), Author of ‘Making An Entrance. Theory and Practice for disabled and non-disabled dancers’ (Rutledge, 2001) and lectures in Theatre and Performance at University of Plymouth who was inspired by the methods by which I produced visual artwork.
In the autumn of 1995, I choreographed a ten minute integrated piece that was performed at Coventry University for Performing Arts and Hereward College in Coventry.
The following two summers, I teamed up with Midlands-based, Louise Katerega to work on the dance summer schools at Theatr Clwyd, North Wales and was a huge hit with the children who learnt to use the Simpson Board as well as dance.
After I studied BTEC ND in Performing Arts, I diverged to obtain a degree in Surface Pattern Design at the University of Huddersfield. My return to dance came in February 2009, when I was approached by Louise Katerega, by then Creative Director of FOOT IN HAND Dance Company, to team up with her to assist a member of Cut Dance in Suffolk with cerebral palsy and limited verbal communication in choreographing for the first time. It was so inspiring to watch her developing into a choreographer, who by the end of the 3 days was deciding everything from the positions her dancers were in, to the type of music that captured the right mood of her piece.
Since Suffolk, I strongly believe there are other prospective choreographers with no, or limited verbal communication, who have not had the opportunity to realize their true potential.
‘As a person with quadriplegic cerebral palsy and no verbal communication, I did not think I would be able to choreograph and it was a tremendous feeling when I choreographed for the first time. Also, the reports from Suffolk are truly amazing as the woman’s confidence has improved considerably, not only with her choreography but with her day to day living.’
In June 2010, I co-led a workshop at a local special school in Liverpool having developed two new boards specifically for them based upon the original board. These new boards being simplified and interactive, the children are able to lead the group providing empowerment and greatly boosting their confidence.
I have also co-led workshops on the Disability Dance Symposium at Beaumont College, Gloucester Dance’s Ignite course and the Foundation for Community Dance’s Dance and Disability aspect of their National Summer School. In addition, I have contributed to the Foundation for Community Dance’s ‘Dance and Disability’ handbook written by one of the UK’s most senior inclusive dance practitioners, Isabel Jones of Salmanda Tandem, where I write about the Simpson board.