Dukes Lancaster associate marks a decade of dance with an innovative project

A Dukes Lancaster associate artist has overcome her disability and lockdown to mark a decade of dance with an innovative project.

Thursday, 31st December 2020, 12:30 pm
Lisa Simpson pictured with dancer, Kate Threlfall.
Lisa Simpson pictured with dancer, Kate Threlfall.

The tenth anniversary year of Lisa Simpson Inclusive Dance coincides with the 25th anniversary of the Disability Discrimination Act and if anyone has shown how people can master their disability and challenge discrimination to realise their potential, it’s Lisa.

“When I was 12, my class was invited to an event at the mainstream school near the special school that I attended, and it was there that I found myself wishing I could dance on stage. However, deep down I thought it wouldn’t ever be possible because I was born with quadriplegia cerebral palsy and no verbal communication,” Lisa explained.

Yet despite these challenges, Lisa runs her own dance company where she is a director, choreographer and workshop leader.

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Lisa has choreographed with disabled and non-disabled dancers, and when the Covid-19 lockdown threatened to stop her latest work – Branching Out – in its tracks, she adapted and moved the Arts Council funded research and development project, which explores pattern through movement, online.

Lisa, 44, choreographs using the Simpson Board, an inexpensive but priceless tool that enables disabled people to choreograph their own work.

The Simpson Board, named after Lisa, is covered in the choreography tools Lisa needs to translate her vision. Using her eyes or by pointing, Lisa indicates where she would like the dancers to go and the movements they should make. An assistant reading the Board then speaks instructions to the dancers.

In normal times, Lisa would choreograph in a studio but the pandemic forced her to adapt her methods and the Simpson Board so she could complete choreographing Branching Out via Zoom.

From her Liverpool base, she communicated to dancers from the Midlands-based Rosie Kay Dance Company who performed the movements. These were filmed for an online documentary which has been seen by 6,000 people and was the first stage of Lisa realising her ambition.

Using these methods and technology, Lisa could potentially choreograph anyone in the world and be a pioneer in this field.

Lisa, who is an artist in residence at the University of Central Lancashire in Preston, has been busy with other projects during lockdown too. Among them, Stay In and Boogie, an online dance workshop produced for The Dukes where her first show for non-disabled professional dancers was performed in 2018. Lisa Simpson was brought up in Kirkby, Liverpool where she’s now based. She has Quadriplegia Cerebral Palsy, marked by an inability to control and use the legs, arms and body. Lisa Simpson Inclusive Dance was founded in 2010 and among her accolades are an Alison Steadman Award for active citizenship and a Merseyside Women of the Year Award.For more information about the company and to watch how Branching Out was created, visit: www.simpsonboard.co.uk.