Established in September 2006 and registering as a charity in 2010, by Founder and CEO Juliet Diener, with the belief that dance can enrich lives, connect communities and celebrate differences, and with the vision of making dance possible for all. The charity’s practice is informed by the lived experience of our founder and the icandance community. Seeing a need to be able to offer disabled children, young people and their families a creative, therapeutic community which considers the needs of the family, Juliet founded icandance.
icandance offers a pioneering interdisciplinary approach, drawing on dance movement psychotherapy, dance, and education techniques. The approach places disabled children and young people centre stage and challenges perceptions of disability through dance. It offers each dancer the opportunity to explore their experience of being in the world through creative expression, skill development and nurturing relationships.
All our facilitators are skilled Dance Movement Psychotherapists, ensuring we are able to consider how a dancer feels before we think about what they do. We work with up to 12 children and young people in each session, with a high ratio of team members to dancers (usually 1:1 or 2:1). Each participant is assigned a team member as their dance partner, who works with them each week, building a trusted relationship with the child and their family. Each week we work with around 120 children and young people offering direct support for each dancer, their families, and professionals within the wider community.
Our specialist work is built on three crucial components:
• Wellbeing: When a child joins us through self-referral or from a professional recommendation from a teacher or doctor, we first focus on building their emotional security and trust. Using verbal and non-verbal interventions we support the child to feel safe enough to explore creatively through movement and develop their curiosity.
• Creativity: With a trusted partnership and emerging self-confidence, the child or young person explores how their body moves, feels and creates with others. We encourage the dancers to find their naturally emerging movement patterns before applying structure. Dancers create new shapes and moves with each other while being skilfully encouraged by our team.
• Learning: We build on and shape the dancer’s own ideas by introducing specific steps and skills to develop their learning. Every step of our approach is tailored to the dancer and their level of ability and engagement. The cycle is continuous and sensitive to changes for the dancer and their family.
As well as our weekly term-time sessions, we give our community of dancers further ways to progress and develop. For example, with the support of one of our skilled therapists, we offer individual Dance Movement Psychotherapy sessions to give young people their own creative space to understand their experiences in the world and address their anxieties. We also support parents through our Parent Therapy Groups, giving carers a space to reflect on the joys and challenges of parenting a disabled child. Dancers with greater independence take part in our youth performance group, iam Dance Company. The company’s weekly session enables children and young people to explore choreography and offers additional performance opportunities that help to challenge society’s perceptions of disability and dance.