The story so far

Martin Wilson reflects on the first year of the Talent Hub

The Talent Hub - George Williams 'Wired' © Rich Kenworthy

Over recent years TIN Arts has worked with and supported several talented dancers with a learning disability or autism.

George Williams successfully auditioned for the National Youth Dance Company, touring with the company in 2015. He then secured funding from Arts Council England to create his first outdoor dance solo, WIRED, which toured nationally in 2017 and 2018.

Becki Parker collaborated with Spanish dance artist Vero Cendoya as part of an international collaboration between Stockton International Riverside Festival and Fira Tarrega in Catalunia, presenting a new work exploring autism, Hunting for the Unicorn.

This has felt like a lot of success and been very exciting for us all. But how replicable is the time we have spent, the resources we have committed and our approach to working with each artist?

The bespoke, responsive nature of our support and relationship with George and Becki is uniquely tailored to the individual, and feels like the exception rather than the norm.

Launching the Talent Hub in partnership with Yorkshire Dance is our attempt to provide the bespoke support needed to enable dancers with a learning disability or autism to progress professionally into dance companies or to emerge as independent dance makers or community practitioners. Support that hasn’t, until now, been available.

We are hoping to develop a new cohort of professional dancers, creators, and leaders influencing the dance and cultural sector, to shift the landscape. To create a better, more informed and inclusive environment for talented dance artists with a learning disability or autism to thrive.

We want to make something excellent that celebrates the unique qualities of each of the dance artists we are supporting, which supports the dance artists into professional practice in dance by creating bespoke pathways, and which shifts expectations of ‘inclusive practice’.

At the heart of the programme is a challenge to ourselves, to the dance artists and to the wider dance sector.

Can we change some of the many conventions and patterns of behaviour in the way we work within the dance sector? Structures that have been developed and repeated over many years? Funding and training models that – although they offer a degree of flexibility – are in the main fairly rigid.

What we are proposing to develop can almost an impossible paradox. A replicable structure where flexibility is the core intrinsic part? Placing a focus on the space between the lines.

And this means we need to work with our dance artists, not deliver a programme to them.

The Talent Hub is now just over a year old, and the posts that follow will explain what’s happened so far…

1. That doesn’t look like a dancer
2. I can’t tell you but I can show you
3. When an audition isn’t an audition
4. The blank piece of paper
5. Known unknowns and unknown unknowns
6. Can you feel the ground shifting?

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Martin Wilson
January 2019