CELEBRATING JOLT: The Christchurch company offers an interconnected programme of classes, teacher training and performance under the vision "To celebrate the unique qualities of our dancers and to challenge perspectives about dance and disability". This video was produced by Creative New Zealand as one of the case studies in Keteparaha Mō Ngā Toi Hapori, its Community Arts Toolkit.
Jolt: pushing the boundaries
In the video, Jolt’s Artistic Director, Lyn Cotton, talks about the work they do in their community.
We are a dance company that provides training opportunities and performance opportunities for people with disabilities. I always find it a bit bizarre using that word “disabilities” because for me it’s just about people. But they are the community that we work with. We also do a lot of education, teacher training to share our ideas about engagement through dance.
I started by accident teaching at a school for people with disabilities and then I was told about an amazing man Wolfgang Stange who was doing a dance class with some of our guys, and I was at that time involved in drama. And so I went along to this dance class and I sat there, and I watched the most amazing interaction and the most amazing dance with one of our students. And I just went “that’s what I want to do”.
So I do this because I know how I felt in that moment and I know that it was really a moment of seeing humanity; I’ve seen something incredibly beautiful. And so I want to share that. I want to share what I see when I do this work with other people. And also, it challenges me. It makes me … it brings out all my best creative side. It makes me think differently and I get a great joy.
Pathway to leadership
So this group here are seven trainees who are training to become teachers in integrated dance. So they’re Jolt dancers. And what we realised a few years ago was that we didn’t have a pathway for real leadership within the company. We felt that for some of our dancers to become teachers was a really important thing to happen. So they train one day a week. We do some practical classes within the day, and then they go out and teach in mainstream primary schools and in disability organisations in the afternoons – so that’s an independent class that they teach by themselves.
So if we are looking at how Jolt works, at the centre is always the “why”. So the why is to offer meaningful and authentic creative expression opportunities for people with disabilities.
And then the “how” we do that is through our classes, through our performances, through our training.
So the performances, you have to share your work with the wider community because I think that’s where real change happens. You know, when people see something, it may just be a small piece but it impacts in a way that you don’t know and that can then spread wider out.
Sharing what we do
Then you have to give people the skills or share your ideas. That’s really important so that where the education comes in. That we have to look for every opportunity to share what we do without saying “this is the way to do it”. So just to share and let people form their own artistic practices. And then the classes, we’ve got to offer equal access to creative arts for people as well. So those are the three main prongs, and then you have all the individual projects.
As an artist working within this field. I don’t give up on anything that I hold artistically dear. I get to be challenged and I get to do it in these really amazing creative ways that bring out all my strengths because I focus it on the community I’m working with.
So they shape me and form me in some ways but I don’t change my artistic practice. You know, I’m not trying to, you know, put boundaries on it. In actual face, working with this community gives me unlimited possibilities to do things.
Creating authentic leadership roles
We are constantly saying “what is possible?” so that the work we’re doing has integrity, that it’s creating authentic, really meaningful leadership roles for people to be out in the community.
So it’s changing those perspectives about disability that maybe push the boundaries. I want to push the boundaries. I really, really do. I think we should always be saying “what is possible? What else can we do? Where else can we go?” And I think there’s so many glass ceilings for our community, you know, and we need to take those glass ceilings away.