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  • Writer's pictureJo Frater

Our 2020 Round Up


At the start of 2020, we were set to have our most ambitious year of activity so far. Off the back of our Advent Calendar Campaign (which saw an incredible amount of support for our work), we were able to use January as time to think strategically - to pause and consider how each of our projects would bring us closer to our mission of creating life-long access to dance for people with learning disabilities in East Kent. Little did we know that the Covid pandemic was lurking around the corner, and that the support we received would become crucial to the survival of our company.

In the first few months of the year, we worked with over 100 children and young people as part of a whole-school “Dive into Dance” event. The event was to celebrate the long-standing partnership between Confidance and Wyvern School, championing the belief that all people are artists and exploring ways to adapt our practice to include those students who are typically isolated from arts activity. Our dances took many different forms, from our embodied improvisation practice with Early Years Sensory Learners, to creating a “Wild West” choreography which partnered classes with and without Profound and Multiple LD. Our Sixth Form company - ConfiYouth - co-created a piece with ATA students, performed at Rose Bruford College, as part of the students’ inclusive arts training with Artistic Director, Jo Frater. “Dive into Dance” would also kick-start ConfiCo’s school touring project, funded by Arts Council England Project Grants. ConfiCo resumed their weekly training, adapting their debut piece “JOiNT”; the piece developed into a participatory performance, with ConfiCo artists preparing for their first experiences of dance facilitation.

On 18th March, in our final rehearsal week, the first national lockdown was announced. All activity ceased, and after much re-planning and waiting for change, we decided that the work as we knew it could no longer take place.

We knew that this unprecedented lockdown was going to compound social isolation for all of our dancers, so our priority was keeping connected in whatever way we could. For the immediate future, we decided to go digital, transferring our training with ConfiCo to Zoom. Our initial ambition was simply to support the wellbeing of our dancers and maintain their technical training, but we soon found that we all needed a creative outlet. We began designing accessible “Dance Review” packs for our artists, which exposed them to a diverse range of contemporary dance films, and supported them to articulate their own choreographic preferences and professional ambitions. Inspired by a film featuring Tut dancing, we created “In Limbo” - a dance film created from our own homes. If you missed it, you can check it out here:

With the generous donations we received in January, we were able to invest time in some core organisational development, including:

  • Registering as a not-for-profit organisation

  • Developing a 5-year business plan, with a focus on developing a representative workforce for Confidance

  • Re-designing our activity into three core strands: Education, Community & Professional

As soon as schools returned, we met with partners to develop risk assessments which would allow us back to work in person. With multiple reports showing the disastrous impact of lockdown on the wellbeing of children and families with disabilities, most poignantly due to social isolation and a lack of access to digital resources, we were invested in finding a way to reconnect students and staff through dance. The therapeutic benefits of our work, which are usually secondary to our strivings for creative equity for all people, became of paramount importance. In September we were able to return to Wyvern and, incredibly, able to begin a new year-long project with Whitfield Aspen School, a fully integrated school of children with and without learning disabilities.

Having tentatively resumed working, and returning to the Quarterhouse to work in a socially distanced way with ConfiCo, we soon found our projects connecting and developing rapidly. ConfiCo were invited to perform as part of the Creative Folkestone “PLINTH” Programme of outdoor events, inspired by the return of Banksy’s Art Buff to Folkestone. In just six weeks, ConfiCo created their first solo choreographies, and performed their new work “Private View” outside the Quarterhouse.

Jumping on the opportunity to connect our education programme to ConfiCo, we began to develop a project for the Sixth Form bubble we were working with at Wyvern. Co-constructing the project with their Art lead, we explored the concept of the ‘Plinth’; students designed their own Graffiti tags, developed dance solos, saw a live performance by ConfiCo and are due to have their own graffiti mural created at school with a visual artist. By the end of the project, our ambition is for 20 students to have achieved a Bronze Arts Award, and to have had a meaningful creative outlet during a hectic and uncertain time.

What’s next for Confidance in 2021?

Whilst there is nothing usual about the start of this new year, we are holding onto the usual feelings of renewed energy, possibility and hope that come with a blank page for 2021. We have spent the past month planning, problem-solving and re-connecting with our partners, to see how we can have the greatest and most meaningful impact on the participants and communities we work with.

We have explored how each programme - Education, Community & Professional - can engage with online delivery for the next few months. Until Easter, we are embarking upon:

  • A 6 week pilot of a new, integrated open-class for adults in East Kent. This will be an integrated class for people with and without learning disabilities, delivered online.

  • Home-learning programme for our partner schools, supporting students’ wellbeing and creative development through a combination of live virtual classes and pre-recorded dance tasks.

  • Pilot of an online class for young people with LD in East Kent. This will be delivered online, and is for dancers of all abilities aged 16-21. We hope that this class will offer opportunities to connect socially and creatively with other young people in the area - and lead towards more in-person classes later in the year!

  • ConfiCo online training, with a focus on developing our artists’ facilitation skills and joining with Mind The Gap to explore their role within the inclusive arts sector.

Our ambition is that our online offers continue to provide opportunity to be creative, get moving and, perhaps most importantly this year, bring people together.

If you are interested in getting involved in any of our programmes, then please get in touch using the contact us page. You can also support our work, or stay up to date by joining our mailing list, by clicking the links below.

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