Helen Shepherd co-leads the Clitheroe workshop with Peter Pamphlett. The workshop has been running since early 2016 and was set up in conjunction with Spring into Phab, a local group which is run by young people with learning disabilities.  The workshop aims to not only include every member of the group but also to give them opportunities to develop their skills, become involved in decision making and have joint ownership of the work that they produce. The group is truly inclusive and the members of the group are all committed, conscientious  and creative! A great example of inclusive dance at work!

Here, Helen gives some insight into how these inclusive workshops are planned:


In December 2016 we had a dance leaders meeting. We decided as a team we would have a theme running through all the dance workshops that we run and the theme would be dance through the decades.


Peter and I run the Clitheroe workshop on a Saturday morning and we were both very excited by the new theme!


We did some research and came up with some steps from the 1920, 30s & 40s, then we introduced the project to the group. I was a little apprehensive about this but I know the group well and I knew they would embrace the idea, and I’m pleased to say they did!


We showed the group some inspirational videos showing examples of dancing through the decades, it felt a bit scary for everyone as some of the dance moves were beyond what the group are used to. We explained the group didn’t have to copy the videos exactly and we would just use them for reference and take the bits that we liked and come up with our own adaptations of them.



We introduced the first three steps that Peter and I had learned these were the Box Step, Aspects from the Black bottom Dance and aspects of the Charleston. The group picked these up very quickly.


From there we went onto learn some moves inspired from the film Grease representing the 1950’s  this was a popular decision with the group we added kicks to the bottom and the hand jive. We then added some disco moves from Saturday night fever representing the 1970’s. Up to now I and Peter had come up with the steps and moves inspired by the videos and what the group like.


Next we looked at the 1980’s this was the start of us giving ownership of the routine to the group. We looked at music from Michael Jackson and members of the group added some of his signature moves. These were the moonwalk, knee flip and the knee swivel.


At this point the dance routine was really starting to take shape we added in Tragedy by Steps and Gangham style by Sy these are both popular songs with the group and they have their own dance routines so we added parts of them in, from there we moved right up to the modern day and the group really came into their own at this point. We added Black Magic by Little Mix and Uptown Funk by Mark Ronson as these songs are popular at the moment the group loved thinking about moves  and adding them into the routine.


A popular exercise with the group is a dance circle, for this exercise we stand in a circle and put some music on, someone starts the dance circle dancing/moving however they want and the rest of the group copies their moves. When the person who is dancing has finished they high five the person next to them and they start dancing we carry this on around the circle until everyone has had a turn.


We used the dance circle to come up with moves for Black magic and uptown funk. This worked really well and at this point we focused on members of the group who hadn’t yet added a move. This routine is definitely the groups work and we have strived for this all the way through as we feel it is important for them to have ownership of it and everyone has had some fantastic input into the routine.


One of the things that made this project more ambitious and exciting is the music, we have music from each chosen era and dance style this was quite a challenge for the group as the tempo of the music changes for each section of the dance! The group embraced this as they do everything else they are fantastic. Peter did a brilliant job of piecing all the music together to create a fantastic track for our routine.


The project started in January 2017 and by June we had our interpretation of dancing through the decades. The routine is brilliant and the group have smashed it! We run through the routine each week to keep it fresh in our minds and we look at polishing the bits that need it. Over all the entire project has been a fantastic success. We have possible opportunities to perform it later in the year. So watch this space………


If you would like more information about any of our workshops, please visit the Events page on our website.

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