On Tuesday 19 April, White Lodge students received a visit from Stopgap Dance Company member, Laura Jones. She spoke to them about her work with the company which creates performances and offers training for the collaboration of disabled and non-disabled artists.
Laura spoke about her work with Stopgap, which began with a three month contract, yet has turned into a fifteen year career with the group. She spoke about the challenges as well as the benefits in dancing in a wheelchair, expressing the passion for dance which has surpassed any physical limitations.
Explaining how the company works, Laura said:
‘Stopgap was the first company in the UK to integrate both dancers with physical disabilities and also dancers with learning disabilities. In doing so, we proved that it’s possible to develop a dance technique and choreography to a professional level with such diverse dancers.’
She spoke about her development in learning to dance with a wheelchair:
‘Even eight years in I was discovering different things I could do. The picture you’ve just seen of me upside down, came out of one of the those days in the studio where the other dancers we doing something and I thought, ‘I’m a bit bored now, I want a challenge, what can I do?’ And I discovered that by twisting around, I could hang myself off the back of the wheelchair and then pull myself along the floor like some sort of insect. That’s one thing with the wheelchair – there’s so many movements, potentials to unlock that in theory no one has ever done before.’
‘I’ve always looked at it as an opportunity to discover new things and new ways of moving. In the company we talk about it, that rather than seeing things as a problem, we view it as an opportunity for creativity. So that when you can’t do a movement, rather than giving up you decide that now I have to be innovative and creative so that I can find my variation of that same movement.’
‘It’s been challenging but it’s been an interesting journey.’
Laura joined Stopgap in 2001 and is a fierce advocate for the dance and disability sector, speaking at events such as Move it! and the Dance UK : The Future conference. Laura was the first wheelchair user to complete 100% of the A-Level dance syllabus. She has worked with numerous choreographers including Yoshifumi Inao (Batsheva Dance Company), Caroline Bowditch, Kevin Finnan (Motionhouse), Thomas Noone (Thomas Noone Dance) and Rob Tanion (Stan Won’t Dance/DV8), touring their work nationally and internationally. Laura worked as a Dance Captain for the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympic Games, assisting with the choreography of all dance sections, teaching the 3500 volunteers and performing in the ceremony itself.