Hannah’s thoughts on play time with Charlotte Vincent

On the 17th and 18th of October we had a new choreographer called Charlotte Vincent. Charlotte was really good, helpful and understanding of the work in our company and us as dancers.

It was really interesting for us as dancers in the company to see how she uses her body and our dancers bodies and technique moving around. Charlotte led the workshop with us with good interpretation of how her company works together.

In a couple of years from now we are hoping we’re going to see her company and her as a choreographer putting together a dance piece for the professional dancers or for all dancers in the company.

Hannah Sampson


Shine On!! weekend – Hannah

On the 8th and 9th October it was the Shine On!! weekend. On both days we had a lot of fun dancing and playing around.

We had lots of young teenagers and adults. The support workers Kat Ball, Joy St’ Denis, David Willdridge, Anna Pearce and Chris Pavia really helped out the young dancers. Our young dancers had lots of  laughs and had done really good dancing as well. I was impressed with how they’ve worked hard.

On both days we started out with a class led by the StopGAP team. After class we all played games and danced around using props and pictures on animals, shadows and mats. By using these props and pictures the dancers had split themselves  into partners or groups to do a dance. By this time we all put everything together into one big show.

We showed our dance in front of our family and friends. They all enjoyed the show in the end.

Hannah Sampson

Summer Schools

August was an important month for me, not only because we rehearsed SPUN Productions for the performance outside the National Theatre, as part of Liberty Festival, but also because I had the pleasure of leading two Summer schools.

The first Summer school was housed at the Ashcroft Arts Centre in Fareham, and was aimed at young teens with disabilities wanting to have fun through dance. So I took along my bottle of bubbles, my pieces of paper with different shapes doodled onto them; and my rubbery face to pull and contort in a way that has become somewhat of a trademark in StopGAP! 😛


After 4 days of learning new ways of moving through different stimuli, we showcased our hard work to the participants parents, and were happy to find that not only had we built up a new movement vocabulary, but had created a short dance too.


The second Summer school took place at The Point in Eastleigh, a venue StopGAP knows very well having not only taught there at the Summer school the year before, but also Premiering StopGAP’s latest stage production Trespass.  The Point offers a weeklong course aimed at teaching participants about integrated dance practice.


I was asked to plan and lead the week, with Anna Pearce as my assistant (a partnership I look forward to continuing with StopGAP’s Youth Dance Group every Wednesday. But I digress).  Throughout the week we looked at tasks aimed at creating movement whilst working alongside one another in an inclusive manner. Each participant brought a wide range of abilities to collaborate and produce exciting movement material that I found a genuine pleasure to watch.


It was thrilling watching the next generation of contemporary dancers work with each other in an integrated way. After all it’s a natural thing.


Some of the StopGAP Youth Group members took part in the week, and having taught them for almost 3 years (through YG or workshops) it was amazing to see them come out of their comfort zones and grow in confidence.


The week’s tasks culminated in a sharing/performance to friends and family; and were met with loud applause and happy faces. Judging by the standard of dancing and the level of understanding in such a short amount of time, I’d say the week was a success. One that I look forward to re-creating next year…

SPUN Productions Premiere – Anna

The premiere of Spun Productions came on a day of forecast showers and, certainly for me, some real nerves; for my own performance and for the Youth Company’s debut performance of new piece ‘Get Set, Go!’

What greeted us in Woking Town Square though, was something of a greenhouse effect, with the glorious sunshine bouncing off the front of the Peacocks centre and onto the performance space….we found ourselves almost wishing for cloud!

As is the nature of street art, the crowds began to gather during our rehearsal and were strictly told by Norma to come back later.

12 o’clock came around fast and the first performance began as soon as we left the dressing room. Holta (Laura), Cindy (Hannah) and Sandy (myself) made our way through the Woking Saturday crowds offering good quality make–overs, autographs from the star and invitations to be part of the hit TV show, ‘So You’re Not Sure If This Is Dance’. We were met with a range of reactions, including being asked for directions, being keen to be made-up like a star and being asked to pose for photos.

The crowds from the earlier rehearsal returned and the atmosphere felt great. The experience of performing outside is so different from being on a theatre stage and is something I’m loving more and more with each run through.

It was then time for the StopGAP Youth Company to take to the stage, and as this was the debut of the full version of their new piece, I had everything crossed for them. They did themselves proud and I received many comments on how professionally they handled themselves throughout the performance; well done guys!

It’s safe to say a good day was had by all in the StopGAP world, Here’s to sunshine for the rest of this season’s performances.


Anna Pearce

Sync Fun from Judith

As part of our involvement in SYNC South East (http://www.syncsoutheast.co.uk/) Joy and I went to Milton Keynes to be part of Pitch.  Although the dancers couldn’t be there as they were deep in rehearsals, they were in the form of our film of Trespass and the wonderful photos from Christopher Parkes (http://www.christophotographic.co.uk/) as you can see here:

Difficult to miss us ! Joy was fantastic and managed to get three pages of new signees to our mailing list and it was great to have time to chat with so many people. A good day in all despite transport difficulties… lots going on and  a range of art work to see.


Posted by Judith Hibberd

Youth Group Residency Week

The week of 18 April began with bubbles, dough, corn – flour and balls; a technique class with a difference! Our intensive week with the StopGAP Youth Group started by working with Sophie on discovering the qualities, dynamics and sensations to be found in our dancing; imprinting the floor with wide hands and feet, isolating body parts to pop bubbles, working sensitively rolling a ball between two people, and melting like liquid in floorwork…

The week continued with Youth Group members being paired up with StopGAP members to work on choreographic, technical and teaching skills. Working from origami games, and maintaining the qualities discovered the previous day, sequences of choreography began to grow.

It was refreshing to be able to be an outside eye observing the Youth Group members working, and it was a pleasure to watch as the partnerships allowed each person’s individuality to manifest in movement, which in turn encouraged StopGAP dancers to push and challenge their partners further.

Ollie and David’s floorwork became progressively more daring, Sarah and Chris’s movement partnership discovered more and more layers, Dermot and Sophie found fascinating ways to best compliment each other’s style, Nathan and Joy used their very different physicalities to create engaging solo’s and duets, and Nick and Kat’s sensitivity to each other grew and grew.

Hannah and I had the pleasure of working with Laura. It was great to have real freedom of playing with movement material, and things became particularly interesting with the addition of wheels!

Partway through the week, Hannah and I headed to The Point, Eastleigh, to perform ‘Shadowed Voices’ as part of an arts week that the theatre was hosting. We performed to a small group of disabled artists, who responded with shrewd and insightful questions and observations, about StopGAP, the making of ‘Shadowed Voices’, the wider dance world and everything in between; hopefully some of these are faces we will see again at our residency at The Point this summer.

Back in Farnham, and our week concluded with a sharing of the work created during our few days with the Youth Group. The young dancers ever – supportive parents were there, and the response was great. The week has left me with much food for thought for the newly named ‘StopGAP Youth Performance Company’’s continued development, which I am very much looking forward to being a part of.

Sho’s excitment about our new outdoor production “Spun”

StopGAP Dance Company started doing R&D for our new outdoor show ‘Spun Productions’ in December last year (2010). What we have got now is looking promising, and we are on course for our creation and rehearsals over May and June 2011.

‘Spun’ is being commissioned by Accentuate (Legacy Trust, South East), Woking Dance Festival and Foyle Foundation, and it will be a show full of surprises and wackiness, as most of our shows are…! The piece will be choreographed by Lucy Bennett, and is set to follow the rise and fall of a celebrity wannabe, and multi-layers of other characters’ stories our hero encounters along the way. The show will draw on how the media has encouraged ‘instant success culture’, and our surreal experience of our celebrity status in Albania! The show will also involve MacArthur Park sang by Richard Harris – courtesy of Universal Music and we think the lyrics are going to be very apt.

I’m excited about revealing and exploring how ‘being excellent’ involves hard graft and honesty, and it doesn’t just spring out of nowhere.

We are also very excited about our Apprentices Anna and Hannah being part of this project. They have developed so quickly this year, and we feel they are ready to take on this challenge.

Tour dates will follow soon!

Posted by Sho Shibata

“Shadowed Voices” at The Point

On the 20th of April, Anna and I did a class with the rest of the company dancers and YG dancers. We only did a tiny bit of the class because we needed to practice and rehearse our duet piece “Shadowed Voices”.

Once we got to The Point in Eastleigh, we performed our duet to this group of young adults. This group wanted to know what it’s like to watch professional dancers dance. Anna and I were amused that they were studying StopGAP itself and our work within our company.

After we’ve performed, we had an interview chat with the group. The group enjoyed the performance and came out with good interesting feedback and questions.

Today we are getting ready for our performance at Farnham Maltings as part of the StopGAP evening here.  Yesterday Vicki watched a run of the show and was very pleased.  She gave us lots of notes that I have been practicing.  Tonight Anna and I will perform our piece after “Within” and I am very excited.

Hannah performing "Shadowed Voices"

Sophie’s perspective on our work in Albania over the last year

Last week saw the final phase of a year long collaboration between StopGAP, the British Council and the Vodafone Foundation Albania. An enlightening project that took StopGAP to Albania on several occasions throughout the year, and that I was excited to be involved in.

In the spring of 2010 we performed in three cities in Albania, collaborating with four dancers from Albania Dance Theatre (Albania’s prominent contemporary dance company) who had attended the training week in inclusive practice we led in Romania the previous week. Our performances followed active debates on social inclusion held in the various cities and were to be entertaining examples of integration in action.

Originally part of a week long initiative led by the British Council and Vodafone Foundation Albania to promote inclusion of all kinds in Albanian society, the sponsors and organisers were eager to ensure that the project had a permanent impact. Kat, Laura and myself returned to Albania last Autumn and led practical sessions in inclusive dance teaching with social workers and dance practitioners from five cities in Albania. The sessions were held in the ‘Help the Life Centre’, a day care and educational institute for disabled young people in Tirana that was to project manage
the next stage of the program. In addition to training the people that took part it was intended to inspire enthusiasm and raise awareness of the social and artistic riches of integrated dance. The logistics of how to develop fledgling integrated dance companies was also deliberated and
discussed by project managers from the five cities.

Visiting Albania this February with Anna, I was delighted to see that the project had moved on leaps and bounds! The three dancers from Albania Dance Theatre, Aledia, Sueda and Mateo, had been leading regular dance sessions with disabled and non-disabled young people in Tirana, Elbasan, Berat, Shkodra and Durres. Visiting each group, Anna and I encountered a very diverse range of dancers and rehearsal conditions, but were so excited by what we saw. In Elbasan for example, Aledia was working with a huge group that integrated young disabled people from a day centre with children from a local mainstream school. They were rehearsing in a space with good facilites and it was evident that both groups were really enjoying the experience. The situation in Shkodra was entirely different, with a very small group of very young children with learning disabilities, dancing in a cluttered and busy hallway. Despite these conditions this group were perhaps the most focussed, dancing with great creativity and expression throughout the session. We were eager to instill in Aledia, Sueda and Mateo the confidence that they could create five very different, but equally valuable and inspirational performances with these groups, showcasing their achievements at the forthcoming anniversary of ‘Promoting Inclusion’ week.

Returning to Tirana to perform last week, again preceded by debates and conferences involving prestigious voices in social and cultural integration, we were delighted to perform to a packed house at the Academy of Arts. We were particularly honoured and a little nervous to hear that in the audience, and opening the performance with a speech would be the President of Albania, Bamir Topi. A successful performance was followed by a delicious dinner at the Ambassador’s residence, where we ate pavlova and chicken curry and mingled with other people involved in the week’s events.  It was wonderful to hear reports of moving and inspirational performances occurring throughout the week by the young integrated groups led by Aledia, Sueda, Mateo and Gjergi Prevasi of Albania Dance Theatre.

Our stay in Albania had a surprising last minute extension as we were invited to perform as guest artists on ‘Dancing with the Stars’! This presented an exciting opportunity to raise the profile of integrated dance and disabled artists in general in Albania, Kosovo and Macedonia (the show is aired across Eastern Europe) and was an evening I will never forget! Hair slicked back and plastered in make-up we performed an extract of ‘Splinter’ live on television to an appreciative crowd. A memorable end to a fascinating year. Here’s hoping that integrated dance will continue to grow roots in Albania, and that the work of the British Council, Vodafone Foundation Albania, Help the Life, Albania Dance Theatre and StopGAP will resonate long into the future.

Sincere thanks to the above organisations for enabling this project to happen.

Another surreal week … in Albania this time!

Working for StopGAP, you get used to the unusual happening, but our recent week in Albania was certainly the most surreal week of my life!

Sat 9th April

Packing time again!  We were all getting ready for StopGAP’s fourth trip out to Albania.  The next day we were heading back to Tirana for the culmination of our project with the British Council and Vodafone Albania Foundation.  We have been mentoring dancers from Albanian Dance Theatre and other dance artists to help them set up a number of integrated groups, and then choreograph on them.  During the week the groups would be performing in their local cities, and we were to perform Trespass at the Academy of Arts in Tirana to celebrate the British Council and Vodafone Albania Foundation Promoting Inclusion Week, with Help the Life Association.

Anna and I headed to a hotel near Gatwick because of the early start the following day, unaware that things were about to get a little weird.  Unfortunately, due to an ear infection,  Chris was unable to fly with us, leaving just four dancers. Panic! What will we do?

Immediately Lucy’s problem-solving brain swung into action, and the decision was made to take Hannah, our apprentice dancer instead!  She and Anna would then perform “Shadow Voices”, choreographed by Chris, as part of our evenings show.  Hannah had toured with the company last summer for the last few Tracking performances, but this was to be her first overseas trip with us!  Fortuitously Anna, our lead apprentice dancer, was already coming with us, having been out to lead workshops on the last trip to Albania!  So it was a dash from the hotel back to Anna’s home to pick up her costume and music, then back to the hotel and to bed, ready for the early start the following day… still a little shell-shocked at the turn of events.

Sun 10th May

We all meet up bright and early at Gatwick, with a few last-minute logistics to sort and then we were on our way.

It was great to see the familiar face of Ani from the Help for Life Centre, where we had previously led workshops, meeting us at Tirana airport and taking us to our hotels.  We had a warm welcome on arriving at our hotel; I didn’t even have to say my name as they remembered us from before! I was back in my usual room overlooking the national football grounds and able to see the Academy of Art where we would be performing on Tuesday… I could even see the giant poster of StopGAP that was hanging from the front of the building, advertising our performance!

We then all met up back at the other hotel and got down to business with reworking the dances without Chris.  Clare Sears from the British Council popped in to say hi and check we were all ok.  Oh, and to mention that the Albanian President would be watching… no pressure then!

My hotel view, including a massive poster of StopGAP!