Inclusive Dance Company Changing Lives in Hertforshire

Silverbirch Dance is an inclusive dance company based in Hertfordshire, UK. Founded in 2002 by Suzie Birchwood under the premise that anybody and ‘any body’ can dance, the company aims, through a programme of performances, workshops and projects for schools, colleges, local authorities and community groups, to enable people to explore the creative possibilities in their own bodies and imaginations in a safe and supportive environment.

The Music Workshop Company spoke to David Nurse, Artistic Director of Silverbirch Dance, about the inspiration behind the company, and current projects and opportunities for participants in and around Hertfordshire.

“At Silverbirch we believe that watching performances and taking part in workshops led both by disabled people with and people without disabilities raises expectations of what disabled people can achieve and contribute. By creating safe social spaces where dancers can build their self-confidence and be supported to stay healthy, active and engaged, we aim to show that disability is not a barrier to a fulfilled and happy life, and through this, challenge perceptions of disabled people.

My own motivation for running the company lies firstly in the development of my practice. I have been involved in running companies before, spending 12 years as Youth Group Director for Magpie Dance, and I wanted to take on responsibility for the whole of a company’s work. Because Silverbirch provides such a wide range of offerings in various settings this is a chance for me to build on my previous experience, enhancing the work of the company and the skills of our participants and facilitators.

I am particularly keen to have disabled artists in an authorial and leadership role so that they are doing the work rather than having the work ‘done to them’. The company members at Silverbirch are incredibly dance-literate: Amazing dancers, performers and communicators. I want to continue to develop these skills so that they can be recognised as dance leaders and facilitators by the wider world.

Through inclusive creative dance projects I have seen (and heard) people literally find a voice. One young man who was an elective mute developed his non-verbal communication skills and confidence to such an extent that after an end of term performance he stood up and gave a 5 minute speech about the group and what we had been doing: Something he had never done before. After this it became quite hard to get him NOT to make a speech after each performance!

One member of the company at Silverbirch has developed her self-confidence through our inclusive sessions and mentoring on dealing with situations and our responses to those situations. Six months ago, any new situation, ‘surprise’, or sense of tension would reduce her to tears. Her participation at Silverbirch means she is now able to take a moment, calm herself and continue to contribute to the group.

At a recent performance in a primary school where we performed for the whole school, the pupils were captivated and intrigued by the company. One girl who was wearing hearing aids leapt up at the end to tell one of our dancers, ‘You’re amazing!’ I think the performance and workshop were particularly impactful for a number of students who had impairments. There was one boy who seemed to have difficulty focusing and joining in with his peers. In our workshop he was gradually drawn into the group until he was participating without his support worker, fully engaged, focused and included.

Projects at Silverbirch

Silverbirch Dance currently deliver a number of diverse and dynamic projects and creative opportunities:

Silverbirch Dance

This is our graduate performance company which rehearses once a week and gives performances around Hertfordshire and the surrounding area. Through weekly technique and creative workshops Silverbirch Dance explore the many and various ways that the human body can be used as an expressive instrument.

We aim to develop company members’ skills so that they can take a leadership role in the creative life of their community as performers and facilitators.

The company’s current touring production, ‘HOP!’ is a vibrant and dynamic exploration of a Harlem nightclub, created by Suzie Birchwood and the company and performed to specially commissioned music. The show’s characters reflect the first inclusive club in America where all were welcomed and included regardless of their age, gender, abilities, sexuality, race or creed.

Each performance of ‘HOP!’ is paired with an inclusive creative dance workshop led by company members and based on the characters and themes within the piece.

DanceBase

These are our regular term time creative inclusive dance sessions for young people and adults where all are included and encouraged to explore their creativity in an inclusive, accessible and safe space.

DanceBase sessions are delivered by our amazing team of inclusive dance facilitators, assisted by members of the Silverbirch Dance company.

We currently run an Adult Group (16+) in Ware, Hertfordshire on Tuesday evenings during term time. We also run a Youth Group (under 16) and Adult Group (16+) in Watford, Hertfordshire on Wednesday evenings.

UV

This our regular club night, which is run by a management team of young disabled and non-disabled people and adults for their peers. The team make the creative decisions and carry out marketing for each night. The management team also undertake most of the fundraising for UV events. Recent themes include ‘The Roaring ‘20s’ and ‘Bhangra.’ UV aims to deliver a true clubbing experience with professional DJs and current music in a safe and inclusive environment.

Silverbirch Dance also deliver weekly inclusive dance sessions in local SEN schools and we are always open to new partnership possibilities with other schools and organisations. We have recently worked in collaboration with Hertfordshire Youth Orchestra and Hertfordshire County Youth Dance Company on a performance of excerpts from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. This was premiered at The Weston Auditorium. We continue to work in collaboration with these and other groups and Hertfordshire Music Service.

Throughout my career, I have always wanted to challenge stereotypes based on a person’s perceived abilities, gender, ethnic origin, age, nationality or sexual orientation.

I also believe that diversity enhances the creative possibilities of any group.

I believe diverse groups come together to create a total greater than the sum of their parts. We all have different abilities and sharing the workload enables us to achieve more than we ever can by working individually.”

For more details on the amazing projects at Silverbirch Dance and to find out what the company could do for you please check out the website: silverbirchdance.com

To book a ‘HOP!’ performance and workshop package for just £75 pounds please call the office on 07902042469 or email Artistic Director David Nurse david@artsbase.org.uk.

You can contact David Nurse by email at david@artsbase.org.uk or telephone the office on 07902042469


If you are interested in contacting the Music Workshop Company about booking a workshop or would like to feature your project on our next guest blog, contact us today.

 

 

 

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