A dance school for people with diverse abilities
Family Thing is a dance school for people with learning differences and diverse abilities. We teach mainly street dance but we also do some latin american, contemporary, and some line dancing when the mood takes us. We value self expression so do a lot of freestyle exercises, and generally our classes can have a bit of a party feel, unless of course we have a performance coming up, in which case we get pretty serious.
One of our longest running members ‘Badman’ Barnett, as we like to call him, from our street dance group The 283 Crew named our company when he said that dancing with his crew always felt like family.
We are largely based in Brighton, which is in the South East of England, and most of our dancers live in supported residence run by Care Management Group (CMG). We have been running for approximately 5 and a half years and we absolutely love dancing! The great thing is that because we love it so much, other people also seem to enjoy what we do!
Family Thing uses dance to raise awareness for people diagnosed as having learning difficulties
Last year one of our groups, The 283 Crew, were invited to perform at the UK’s first Disability Pride event, and another of the groups we work with, The Brelade Players, were invited to perform in Westminster for the launch of The STOMP best practice guidelines.
Basically a lot of people are still struggling to be recognised for how awesome they really are, and some of these people receive an awful lot of anti-psychotics, very strong medications that can make them really not feel themselves. So we had a think about this and put together a performance showing how every one of us really has a lot to give; we are each unique and important.
At that particular event we were performing in front of Norman Lamb MP and lots of people from the NHS. We are a dance community, and as a community, we support one another and other people. We try in our way to make the world a better place. I know that sounds like, and is a big task but if we can find a way to share a message through dance or make someone smile, or even if through our own enjoyment of what we do, we can send a little ripple of happiness out into the world, well, that sounds like a good thing to us.
Some dancers in Family Thing work on a one to one basis, and some work in groups. One of the groups Family Thing works with, The Brelade Players, as I mentioned before, have people aged from 19 to 70 years old. Jiving Jeanette is 70 and she gets down!
Family Thing Values
We really are like a big family; and we share certain values,
A bit about Kate
So that’s a little bit about us, and if I may, I’d like to tell you a little bit more about me. I qualified with the International Dance Teacher’s Association about 14 years ago. I started teaching at my mum’s dance school Dance Action in Cambridgeshire and from there I went on to work as a senior teacher and coach for national freestyle competitors, at The Miller Dance Centre in Norwich. I went to the University of East Anglia to study English Literature and Creative Writing, and later I qualified as a psychodynamic psychotherapeutic counsellor at Brighton University. I have led choreographic workshops for Bucks New University, and was an associate lecturer on their Foundation Degree in Dance Teaching.
I moved to Brighton in 2010, where I started this dance group and also worked for another great inclusive performing arts group in Brighton called BrightonShed.
Dance is a Family Thing
Dancing really, for me, has always been a family thing. From an early age I was in the studio watching my Mum teach. I learnt from her that the most important part of teaching was enabling students to find their joy and to believe in themselves.
I also grew up watching my cousins Kevin and Joanne Clifton dance competitively in Blackpool. I was constantly inspired by them; I still am. It was not so much by the winning, but by the way they seemed to bring magic to the dance floor and got the audience to feel the joy of the movement and of the intention; watching them dance could give you goose bumps. Supporting them was a very important part of my childhood, and as much as I would love the performance aspect of their work, the competitive environment was something I struggled with; I believe that in dance, as in all areas of life, connection and self worth are vital for growth as both individuals and as communities and sometimes competition can get in the way of that, unless you really love that aspect.
When I started working with the dancers who would become the first Family Thing members I was inspired. Everyone I met seemed to be full of excitement and joy about dance, about moving their bodies, and each dancer expressed themselves in a way that was interesting and fresh. I recognised that joy, the thrill of performance, I recognised the talent. Now at Family Thing we try to bring that excitement and passion into our classes, and all our performances.
Join our dancing family
Five years on and I am just as excited about sharing what this family does. So please, enjoy our news, keep doing your thing, and believe you can!