The term ‘inclusivity’ has resonated far and wide in recent years, with dance companies deeming themselves inclusive by providing inclusive or ‘integrated’ practice in their work, with particular examples regarding gender or the integration of able-bodied and disabled-bodied dancers. The increase of inclusivity is indeed commendable, but arguably the use of the term highlights how long our arts practices have previously excluded this. Are able bodies and disabled bodies not all performers? If I am too small to ride on a rollercoaster, it is disabling me from getting on, but I am still classed the same as another human being who is tall enough – the difference is trivial. Whilst the use of the term inclusive appears to echo equality, it draws attention to the fact that there is a conscious effort to make this happen rather than observing it happen naturally, which I believe emphasises the segregation. In my eyes, all dancers are dancers, if they’ve got one leg, short hair or brown eyes, and the segregation that occurs is the result of many years of aesthetic context.

A number of dance companies have developed inclusive practice to a great extent, for example CandoCo Dance Company ( recently celebrated their 20th birthday, demonstrating two decades of hard work in this particular area of the sector. The company is renowned for working with performers regardless of the perceived ‘dance body type’ that has surrounded the majority of the arts for years. The company is made up of 7 dancers with the vast majority of performers turned away, as their funding simply does not enable them to hire more dancers.  Aside from this, it could be argued that their practice of employing a small number of dancers is still inclusive, treating every performer in the same way regardless of age, gender or ability.

Recently companies have had to restrict numbers and monitor skill base even more closely than before; with so many cuts to arts budgets, payments simply cannot be as widely spread and such a venture of total inclusion cannot be supported, despite the fact the Arts Council prioritises diversity over conventional arts. While CandoCo and StopGAP cannot afford to hire more dancers, they do not limit their practice and continue to work with over 12,000 other people per year, for example through their youth dance company and other projects. StopGAP Dance Company ( is another example, recruiting only 5 full-time dancers but actively involved in external activities including workshops, education residencies, talks and more.

The work of dance organisations in inclusive practice must be celebrated, to keep the sector of dance alive in all areas it currently embodies. However I feel to label the practice as inclusive is problematic, as I believe organisations should practice inclusivity anyway by working with participants, rather than labelling them with socially constructed terms and restricting work to certain dancers. Undoubtedly, some dancers may be disadvantaged in terms of, for example, an energetic dance piece including older dancers, yet the work should still be available to them in some shape or form, for example through the opportunities offered by Sadler’s Wells’ Company of Elders ( To deny dancers their passion for dance, whoever they are, should not be the practice endorsed by any dance company. In restricting dancers, we are restricting the arts in an already limited environment.