Funder(s): Arts and Humanities Research Council
MI Researcher(s): Shawn Harmon

The InVisible Difference project seeks to extend current thinking that surrounds the making, status, ownership and value of work by contemporary dance choreographers. We are researchers from two different disciplines – dance and law – and our primary focus is on dance made and performed by disabled dance artists because we still have a long way to go before dancers with impairments are fully integrated within mainstream dance performance. We are asking why this is the case: What is it in existing theoretical and legal frameworks that helps or hinders the participation of disabled dance artists in the mainstream? We are working closely with disabled dancers to consider perceptions of creation, interpretation, and authorship. In doing so, we seek to discover new ways of thinking about how dance that is made and performed by disabled dancers contributes to our cultural lives. We hope this will strengthen the case for change (where necessary) in working practices and the legal frameworks that underpin the artists’ work.

‘Resilience and Inclusion: Dancers as Agents of Change’
AHRC Follow-On Award from the InVisible Difference Project
This will focus on an unanticipated outcome of InVisible Difference, namely, the lack of knowledge amongst those in the professional dance sector and its audiences about the working lives of dancers with disabilities and how this impacts directly on their ability to make, produce, and share their work. It will enable us to address the need, as voiced by the dance community, for tools that will have a direct impact on the resilience of disabled dance artists and which will support the ‘inclusion agenda’ promoted by arts funders, promoters and artist organisations. The aims of the project are to: cultivate a deeper awareness and better understanding of the legal, commercial , and aesthetic issues surrounding artworks made and performed by dancers with disabilities; and engage a broad spectrum of stakeholders who can effect change including: policymakers (such as Arts Council England and the Intellectual Property Office), professional dance organisations (DanceUK, People Dancing), theatre programmers, educators as well as professional dancers and their audiences. We aim to undertake 3 distinct but interrelated and targeted impact activities: (1) produce a Documentary Film featuring our partner dancers (which will capture the process of the dancers making a new choreography and highlight their lived experiences through concept planning, rehearsal organisation and management, collaborative working, artistic decision making and performance); (2) develop an Online Toolkit for distribution to audiences that combines the art documentary, guidance on IP rights, business modelling, diversity and inclusion in arts practice, and critical analyses, all woven into an educational journey designed to enhance understanding of disabled dance and the context in which it is created, produced and distributed; and (3) organise a 1-day Stakeholder Workshop that involves key policy makers, dance organisations and a wider network of artists to disseminate the project, the toolkit and to capture feedback for a final set of project briefings.