Second Hand Dance is a disabled led company who create dance experiences (both live and digital) that are accessible and welcoming to all bodies, working locally, nationally and internationally from their base in Surrey. The company’s way of working is centred on co-creation and collaboration with audiences and artists from many disciplines, with the vision of creating a world where dance, empathy, play and exploratory movement are central to the lives of children and adults. Their latest live show We Touch, We Play, We Dance is touring throughout February with further dates for later in the Spring to come. We spoke to the company’s Artistic Director Rosie Heafford to find out more…
Tell us a bit about We Touch, We Play, We Dance – what can audiences expect from the experience?
We Touch We Play We Dance is a gentle and interactive show that invites everyone to connect through movement and touch. It’s set in the round, so audiences sit in each of the four corners of the dance space, either on floor cushions or benches. Babies, toddlers and adults are welcome to watch or join in as the four dancers play games, without using words. You can join in with simple things like high fives or get up and boogie – we have a DJ mixing tunes live to get everyone in the mood to move!
Caring and nurturing touch is incredibly important to child development, there’s lots of scientific research into how it works and stimulates the brain as well as developing empathy. With this show I want to share the playfulness of touch – how it can lead into games and dancing. Our audience of 0 – 3 year olds have grown up through a pandemic, and we still need to be careful to keep people safe, but it’s also important to start breaking down the taboo of touch and develop an understanding of consent.
The show is designed for very young children – age 0-3. What do you think is the key to making shows for little ones – how do you get them interested and keep them engaged?
Good question! I think the key thing is not to patronise and to have an understanding of developmental stages with young children. For me this is a lot about observing children at play. To make We Touch We Play We Dance we spent 7 weeks working in nurseries and child-care settings, dancing with children and carers. This is how we developed the ‘score’; through lots of testing with different children. It’s enabled us to develop an acute sensitivity, for the dancers to be able to make decisions in the moment about how to develop the arc of the show so the whole audience comes on the journey with us.
Do you find parents enjoy joining in too?
Yes, absolutely. We often have the whole audience up dancing with us in the middle of the show. No one has to join in at any point though – watching, listening or dancing are equally valuable. Children are highly skilled at absorbing everything that’s going on around them (even if they appear not to be!) We’ve had lots of feedback of children who have or haven’t joined us, going home and repeating the whole show for the rest of the family.
As well as the touring show, Second Hand Dance is just launching a new digital project, Getting Dressed films. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Getting Dressed Films is a series of 5 short dance films, inspiring audiences to transform their everyday clothes into dance partners and celebrations of our individuality. They are set to an 80’s inspired soundtrack and you’ll see 5 dancers moving with swirling skirts, sashaying socks, glitter ball jackets and tumbling t-shirts.
Getting Dressed films have inclusivity and access at their heart. They were filmed on greenscreen which has enabled us to develop an animated background that dances along with the music. You can also listen to audio described versions written and recorded by a group of young people aged 9 – 11, watch plain background versions and British Sign Language introductions.
They’ll next be screened by Belfast Children’s Festival in March!
Second Hand Dance is a disabled-led company – how does that affect your approach to creating shows?
I started Second Hand Dance in 2013, and as the company grew and opportunities to tour, create and present increased, I also began to experience chronic pain and fatigue. After quite a journey and soul searching to understand the social model of disability, in 2017 I began to identify as disabled. Being disabled and leading a company impacts the way the company runs and how we create shows. We need more time and resources for me to create shows safely. I work shorter days and alongside a rehearsal director and support worker during creation and producing time. It can be difficult to fit into an industry that is constantly underfunded and working at speed; let alone during a pandemic.
However, it’s also enabled deep thinking about how we can remove barriers for others too and develop access tools that are appropriate for our audiences. One of the things I’m really excited by is working with children to create access tools for their peers, for example audio description created by children for children.
What’s next for the company?
The tour of We Touch We Play We Dance is going to take up our focus until the summer, and we’ve potentially got more tour dates in the UK and internationally in the Autumn. But we’re also investigating creating a digital version of the work – something that families can join in together with at home.
For tour dates and more information visit https://www.secondhanddance.co.uk/