Professor Sarah Whatley PhD, is professor of dance and Director of the Centre for Dance Research (C-DaRE) at Coventry University, UK. Her research interests include dance and new technologies, dance analysis, somatic dance practice and pedagogy, and inclusive dance practices; she has published widely on these themes. The AHRC, the Leverhume Trust and the European Union fund her current research, which is broadly focused on the impact of digital technologies on tangible and intangible cultural heritage. She is founding editor of the Journal of Dance and Somatic Practices and sits on the editorial boards of several other journals.
Several UK dancers with physical impairments have been developing careers as dance makers, leaders and performers but there remain many barriers for dancers with disabilities to enter training and then the dance profession. Each has a story about the experience of being accepted, or not, within the ‘mainstream’ contemporary dance environment. This paper examines the experience of artists who are contributing to a research project that brings together experts in dance and law to discover more about what would better enable dancers with disabilities to play a full role within the cultural landscape. Observations based on witnessing rehearsals together with analysing the discourse that emerges from the artists’ work shows the potential impact of this work on legal frameworks and the dominant aesthetic frameworks that take root in professional dance practice. The paper brings fresh insights to questions about how we critically engage with and value disabled dance.