SERTA Workshop report (short version) Sept 2018 – Dancing with a disability – Malcolm Brown

The SERTA Workshop on 30th September 2018 was led by Malcolm Brown with music from Ian and Meryl Thomson. It covered three different areas, including an update on the changes to the RSCDS teaching qualifications and dances from Book 52.

Malcolm’s main presentation was about dancing with disabilities. He had taught Scottish dancing to wheelchair users in Samara, Russia and we saw two videos showing this, one of a “Legs and Wheels Ball” which was very impressive.  Each wheelchair user had an able-bodied partner, all dressed up beautifully and it was most encouraging to see everyone enjoying dancing.

Malcolm has devised specific dances for wheelchair users, sometimes with 16 bars rather than eight for a formation, using reel or jig music only. He found advance and retire, rights and lefts, hands across work well but wheelchairs are not easy to turn in a small area, so reels are difficult.

To imagine what it is like to be disabled, we then danced in pairs, one with their eyes closed, the other guiding.  Next, we attempted Malcolm’s special dances in threes, two in promenade hold, so that we could imagine the space used by a wheelchair.  There was much hilarity and I think we all learnt a lot from this exercise – I know I did.

Elizabeth Bennett, who has Parkinson’s, kindly gave us some ideas on dancing with dancers with disabilities that may not be immediately apparent (she has difficulties with balance) .

We all saw that the benefits of dancing are not just in social interaction but also in encouraging people to do more.  Thanks to all who helped to give us an insight into dancing with disabilities and another excellent workshop.

Hilary Maidstone