CoDa Dance Company

CoDa Dance Company

At a glance

Causes

  • Arts
  • Health and well being / research and care
  • Physical disabilities

Other details

Organisation type: 
Charity
Geographical remit: 
National - England

Objectives

Based in Thurrock, CoDa (Collaborations Dance) is a socially driven female & disability-led company with an almost 10-year track record of creating partnership-based professional dance productions in non-theatre spaces, predominantly with neurologically disabled participants in hospital and community settings.  By neurodisability, we mean anyone who has suffered injury to the brain leading to disability.

CoDa was founded by Nikki Watson, a neurodiverse choreographer and performer, in 2013 following a series of exploratory artistic R&D to come to terms with her mother’s Multiple Sclerosis (MS) diagnosis and deterioration. CoDa delivers professional dance productions, closely aligned with a participatory methodology that creates safe spaces for neurologically disabled people (and their carers and families) to explore the experience of neurological disability and share this with audiences to encourage new dialogue and social change.     

Elise Phillips joined the company in 2017, drawing on their extensive experience in participatory arts,  lived experience of learning disability, neurodiversity, and hearing impairment to refine the methodology & link it to academic research.

Our mission is to tell stories that are real and celebrate life in a way that makes a difference.      

By deploying dance and immersive technology to provide a voice where this can be difficult, we help individuals be creative, express themselves & celebrate life through the joy of movement in their places on their terms. We use art to connect carers and families to improve social connection and sense of community, as well as stimulating audience conversations to overcome misconceptions & misunderstandings regarding disability, connecting art & wellbeing. Our professional work seeks to push the boundaries of dance by blurring digital and physical methods to shape a distinct visual aesthetic echoing the link between brain & body in an imperfect way.

Since 2013, we have built a distinct reputation as specialists that integrate dance &      neurodisability in a truly collaborative & participatory way in non-traditional dance settings.      Through ongoing R&D, we have developed a practice of combining dance & technology through volumetric capture, virtual reality (VR) & augmented reality (AR). This gives a distinct & accessible visual aesthetic to our work that reflects neurodisabled people’s      experience of delay between their brain & body in a playful, participatory way. Central to our dance practice is the notion that our neurologically disabled participants become Creative Consultants that inform & shape our projects, making them authentic & relevant. This also acts as a pathway into the organisation as dance artists. Our strong partnership with the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability (RHN) in Wandsworth since 2019 has added medical rigour to our accessible approach, honed through weekly Dance for Neurology sessions with RHN & our academic work with UCL.

Our unique inclusive approach to creating art is the result of 3 intersecting development journeys in dance, health, & immersive technology. This breadth of research has improved the quality of CoDa’s work whilst increasing accessibility for disabled participants, their families, & audiences, as well as building a network of artistic collaborators sharing our values.

Activities

Our work delivers impact to our audiences through engagement with disabled individuals, carers & families, general audiences, & specialist professionals. Our performers are representative, with direct & indirect lived experience of ND.     

 

For disabled individuals, being heard & understood is incredibly important.  We were told by 1 participant that “seeing my symptoms brought to life through light & dance was fascinating.  I’ve never been fully able to explain it, I really felt the dancers showed what it feels like for me every day.” A family member said “I wish my family had something like this when my grandad had Parkinson’s. Experiences like this are needed…They didn’t have anything like this to help them understand what its really like for him”.  An audience member told us “It felt respectful in dealing with the context. I liked there was humour in it [&] a lot of unexpected movement… The glitchy bit was amazing. It felt [like] it had come from a really honest place”.

 

We bring together artists, lived experience & tech specialists at the research stage to develop the concepts of previous productions into new work. We test iterative dance & tech research with audiences & where appropriate scale it up & tour it to wider audiences.  The seamless connection between past & future work & the integration of our participatory & artistic approach ensures a progressive audience development pathway. We aim to elevate participants taking part in workshops to Creative Consultants, who share their lived experience & bring a critical eye to the work, & onto Co-Creators, actively involved in project design & the creative process. Some, like Maiya, even become paid CoDa artists. The cross-sector connections we forge along this journey magnify our impact through partnerships in health, tech & the arts.

Current opportunities

Essex, RM16 2NP

An award-winning, socially driven, female-& disability-led dance company; creating site-specific, XR & stage productions, we specialise in...