Group photo taken at National Convening on the Future of Integrated Dance in the US

Group photo taken at National Convening
on the Future of Integrated Dance in the US

Two weeks ago Olivia and I flew to NYC for the 2016 convening on the future of integrated dance in the US organized by AXIS Dance Company (  We were excited to meet many people that we had read about, seen their work and listened to their talks about mixed-ability dance.  There were 46 people in attendance including integrated dance company founders like Mary Verdi-Fletcher from Dancing Wheels, Judy Smith from AXIS, Alito Alessi of Joint Forces and DanceAbility International; there were also funders, administrators and teachers as well as disability scholars Carrie Sandahl and Simi Linton; alongside second and third generation dancers from Heidi Latsky Dance and Marked Dance Company.  

The convening came at a great time for us as we are in the midst of planning the next steps for Body Shift. One of the ideas we are most excited about is developing strategies to open our Body Shift community to be more thoroughly included in the larger dance community in Austin.  Our hope is to reach out to local dance artists and studios and offer lecture demonstrations to present about integrated dance that is happening at the international, national, regional, and local level.  We also hope to discuss ways that we can begin working together to create a truly inclusive dance culture. The dream of anybody being able to take part in a dance class and feel good about it is that much closer.  The idea being that when the description of a dance class or workshop says open to all, it really means all.

During our three days at the Gibney Dance Center in Manhattan we also learned about the international model of integrated dance.  The keynote speaker, Jo Verrent, from Unlimited shared the story of the extremely inspiring and inclusive work being done to fund and support individual artists with disabilities in the UK.  Check them out at: and you will be wanting to move to the UK. 🙂 
One of Jo’s slogan was that you need to be “professionally interruptible” meaning that we need to have mentors who have lots of experience and connections in the field so that they are available to support the new generation on their path of integrated dance.  She reminded us all of the power of working together! Check out Jo’s blog post about her experience at the convening here:

They had a video booth set up for participants to go and share their thoughts about the convening.  One of the questions they asked was: “What makes this gathering unique?”  For me it was that we were in the same room with doers, thinkers, writers and funders.  It was also unique in that first, second and third generation dancers and dance makers were in conversation with each other in open discussion.  It was a great mix of people who all have similar goals as creators and supporters of integrated dance.  The consensus was that we must work together to continue to secure the same opportunities for people with and without disabilities.

Talk about an inspiring and thought provoking time! 
PS.  Gibney Dance Center hosted the convening.  On the second morning they had a fire drill and we couldn’t help but make an improvised dance to the sound of the sirens as we waited for the drill to be done.  In the video you will see me (Silva Laukkanen), Olivia O’Hare and Connie Michael (from the board of directors of DanceAbility International).  The video was shot by Alito Alessi (founder of DanceAbility International.  Check it out below:

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