The past year has been challenging, governed by unforeseen events and last-minute changes to our plans. Like everyone else, all over the world, the National Centre for Dance Therapy has been affected by the pandemic and had to learn how to continue being active in an unstable environment and to be more flexible and open to circumstances.
In March, after an optimist beginning of the year, the hosting of a panel on social art that brought together four large cultural institutions in Montreal, the inauguration of new classes for the public and some new and exciting collaborations to help marginalized youth, we had to suspend all of our activities as the government announced the first of a series of confinement measures. What we thought would be a short break, before going back to “business as usual”, became for us an opportunity to reimagine our services, to explore new formats and methods to dance and move together.
Notwithstanding some initial technical issues (some classes without music, internet connections that were not up to the demand…), our professionals, dance professors and dance therapists have shown their passion and dedication and adapted to working through a screen to continue providing their services. And if you are still not sold on the virtual format, take a minute to read this interview with our dance therapist Andrea de Almeida.
And our clients, who are often among the most vulnerable, with special needs and, in the past months, at risk of being isolated by the pandemic, have shown great patience and understanding, encouraging us not to stop and confirming our belief that dance is essential for the physical and emotional well-being of individuals.
Today, we are proud to collaborate virtually with various community partners, working with young autistic adults, adults and seniors with intellectual disabilities and people living with dementia or Parkinson’s disease. And let’s not forget our adapted dance and dance therapy classes for the public, which, now that we have gone virtual, can reach an even larger public!
This summer, we have even offered our first completely virtual summer camp for teenagers on the autism spectrum, which has given participants the chance to explore dance, arts and creativity, with the support of specialized professionals. What a joy to see them build friendships and relationships, learn new things and dance and have fun without leaving their house! Have you read what a participant has to say about the experience?
The summer camps have also seen us experiment with our training programs. The second session of the Alternate Route was held on Zoom (congratulations to students and professors who have survived the three intensive weeks of the program) and we have offered six webinars on dance and well-being.
And this fall, what a sign of trust from the part of the schools we work with to welcome us back to their spaces, so that their students on the autism spectrum could continue dancing (with masks, of course!). And what’s more, our long-standing partner, the St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Homes Foundation did not hesitate, as soon as it was allowed, to come up with innovative solutions so that the senior residents of the community could keep enjoying weekly dance therapy sessions. And, talking about people with neurocognitive issues, did you know that we collaborate to the What Connects Us initiative, which aims at bridging our differences by focusing on what makes us human?
And to conclude, we cannot but mention that this year has marked the end of a three-year research project, led by Exeko, and in collaboration with ten cultural organizations, nine community organizations and the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, to write together the Charter for an Inclusive, Accessible and Equitable Culture. Published this fall, the Charter will be for us the compass that will guide us in the coming years to continue our contribution to creating more inclusive, accessible and equitable communities.
And now, back to work for a 2021 full of energy, positivity and joy!