Everyone has different abilities, passions, and ways of communicating, and everyone has a different way of learning; our dance sessions are for groups of people with diverse abilities and learning differences, and this includes everyone!
Often people are categorised based on an ability level and are then grouped on that basis. At Family Thing we consider the social model of disability and in general do not assign groups based on physical difference, ability or skill level. We believe that when we homogenise groups, that is to make groups full of things (in this case people) that are the same, we miss out on the richness of diversity.
In every class or session we run there are elements that facilitate a safe space for each individual to express themself and also for them to develop connections, communication with, and respect for, the other dancers they are working with.
Family Thing creates dance groups that encourage authentic, creative and joyful self expression
One of the ways we do this is through a circle of expression, which is a freestyle circle that happens at the end of each session. Another way we do this is through an exercise we call, Introductions.
When a crew do their introductions they use a piece of music they all love, The 283 Crew for example use Radios Stereos Decks by Domestiques. Then each member of the crew takes it in turns to come forward and strike a pose. The rest of the crew are encouraged to make noise and support the dancer who is introducing themselves, and the teacher as always uses a lot of praise and reinforcement verbally and through their body language.
The process of introducing themselves gives each dancer an opportunity to show the rest of their crew who they are, and how they like to express themselves. Each member of The 283 Crew for example is very different and therefore each person introduces themselves in a unique way.
‘Brighton’s Rocky’ Hockley struts forward often doing a pose to show the fierceness of a lion, in part because he is a Leo astrologically. He also loves pirates and sometimes incorporates that idea into his introduction. One really impressive element is that he always changes the level he uses in his pose; this is a dynamic change that we explore in areas of choreography, that he has embraced and incorporates into all areas of his dancing.
‘Badman’ Barnett uses the walk element of his introduction to show his love for music; he is the front man for a rock band called ‘Zombie Crash’, and also loves rap, so often in his introduction he looks like he is scratching records. When he gets to his pose he stands proudly, sometimes drawing on his favourite wrestler. We know this is something that, our wider family member, Kevin Clifton relates to following his video looking at the similarities between wrestling and
Strictly Come Dancing!
Occasionally Barnett will also take the pose as his opportunity to show his partner skills, offering his hand to his teacher and spinning her into a dramatic line.
‘The King’ Molin comes forward to pose with his arms in an X to represent X-men, or if he is wearing a t-shirt with one of his favourite film characters on, he strikes a pose pointing as his t-shirt. As a big Strictly Come Dancing fan he will sometimes shout, ‘Keep Dancing!’, when he has finished his pose; representing for our wider family members the Cliftons! He has always been one of the more shy members of the group and this exercise has been a key element in improving his confidence, where the focus is on keeping his head up and taking ownership of the space.
‘Fabulouso’ Osho is one of the coolest dudes I think I have ever met. He walks forward with some serious style, he has a fantastic musicality, and is very skilled and responsive rhythmically responding dynamically if the music changes tempo. His pose is simple; he crosses his arms and leans back, as if to say ‘Yes, I have arrived!’
And last but not least, ‘Funky’ Fitch, the newest member of The 283 Crew, he embraced this exercise wholeheartedly, and really enjoys the opportunity to take the spotlight. Fitch often ends his introduction by doing a strong man pose, showing himself as proud and powerful. Initially keen but a bit shy, Fitch now takes centre stage with eagerness, and bounds forward.
Family Thing promotes love, respect and understanding in every way we can.
Following the individual introductions, the exercise develops into crew introductions where each member of the crew takes it turns to walk as the leader, with the rest of the crew walking alongside them. In this part of the exercise group dynamics are developed and bonds within the group are strengthened. Each member of the crew understands that they are important, and at the same time learns that they have the same value as each other member. Strong bonds between members support the working dynamic, as they are more able to be in sync with each other, to communicate and to work together to create a piece of movement or choreography in class and performances. More importantly perhaps as part of a community it enables them to problem solve more effectively as a group. Often this group of men with very little external support will negotiate disagreements that arise within the group and, as they take responsibility for their own learning, they will also self regulate in terms of discipline in the class for example. It is very usual in a 283 Crew session, in preparation for a performance, to hear one of the young men asking another to try to focus more.
For young men like ‘The King’ Molin who can find it more challenging to assert themselves in a group, we use a call and response, ‘Who’s crew is it King?’, ‘My Crew!’. It is amazing to see him come up after dancing to say, ‘Hey, I’m on fire on that one aren’t I!’
Family Thing celebrates each individual and promotes connection
In life it is important that we believe in ourselves and that we have a sense of how valuable we are, and it is vital that we make connections with others to increase our well-being and to enable us to create more together.
To quote the song The 283 Crew use for their introductions, ‘Each one of us makes a difference, each one of us is individually gifted!’