Updated: Feb 13, 2021
Confidance was born out of Artistic Director Jo Frater’s lived experience of intensive dance training and growing up with her brother Luke.
In the first few years of her childhood, Jo had not heard the terms learning disability or Down’s Syndrome, and it was only when joining Primary School that she realised that Luke was treated differently. Whilst school was a largely positive experience for them both, this difference was most clearly recognised when it came to communication and social interactions; despite being stood together, people would bypass Luke entirely, directing questions about Luke to Jo, and consequently muting Luke in the conversation. As a non-verbal communicator, Luke and Jo communicated freely and easily through movement - unknowingly planting the seed for what would later lead to Jo’s career in community dance.
Whilst completing a degree in dance, Jo noticed how her body changed through the hours of intensive dance training. She felt a newly inspired confidence, sparked by developing full control of her body and having performance experiences which liberated her from the ‘everyday’ and left her feeling challenged, focused and galvanised. She knew she wanted to share this experience with others, and her curiosity naturally led to exploring the benefits of dance and movement for people with learning disabilities.
Jo’s early career focused on developing her own person-centered movement practice, influenced by Sherborne Developmental Movement, which offers progressive physical development whilst fostering a sense of equity; everyone enters the room as a participant - whether they are carers, parents, siblings or health care professionals. Having developed in community settings, Jo’s practice evolved into Confidance.
Whilst delivering GCSE dance in mainstream schools across Kent, Jo realised that there was a lack of progressive dance education in SEN schools and therefore a lack of stepping stones towards a career in dance for people with learning disabilities. This acknowledgement shifted Confidance’s offer from the benefits of dance in a holistic sense, into developing a dance training model. The ambition was to create an inclusive dance ecosystem where people with learning disabilities could experience lifelong engagement in dance; in education, in the community and into training and beyond. Thus making a sustainable progression route in dance, where people with learning disabilities are driving that change.
Where to next
Having identified a lack of training opportunities for the dancers we work with in education and community settings, Jo received support from Arts Council England to trial a training residency based at Quarterhouse, Folkestone. The project aimed to develop a professional training programme informed by the skills and experience of Confidance’s dancers with learning disabilities; rather than moulding the dancers to suit a ‘mainstream’ version of contemporary dance, the team experimented and re-shaped what contemporary training looks like. The practice that emerged was collaborative and playful, a blending of contemporary technique with creative choreography and a focus on what it means to be an ensemble . The rapid success and progression of the group led to the formation of ConfiCo - Confidance’s first professional company.
Since their formation, ConfiCo have performed at TEDx Folkestone, The Albany, Quarterhouse, The Living Advent Calendar, CREATE Platform, and will develop their role as facilitators through school and community workshops. ConfiCo artists will go on to become part of the Confidance workforce.