Coppélia works like magic: Workshops with Lambeth Mencap

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Categories: Dance is the Word, Productions

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English National Ballet has been working with Lambeth Mencap for five weeks this season, bringing to life the story of Coppélia through music and movement, props and storytelling for people with profound and multiple learning disabilities.  The workshops engage participants, usually in need of high levels of support with most aspects of daily life, with fun and inspiring exercises for the participants and their support workers to get involved in.

The group assemble in a cosy circle, experiencing kinaesthetic learning within an environment of creativity, friendliness and trust. Led by Danielle Jones, the morning starts with a welcoming ‘hello song’ accompanied by a musician playing saxophone; each participant is called by name with the question, ‘How are you today?’ Participants explore the story of Coppélia each playing a different character from Dr. Coppélius’ toy workshop. Most participants remain seated (three in wheelchairs and one in a support bed), and through gentle encouragement all succeed in moving, stretching and clapping along.

Whilst playing the role of Dr Coppélius participants cast magic spells to bring the toys to life; one participant takes to the centre of the circle as the doll Coppélia. She moves and opens her arms in beautiful port de bras, as everyone else in the room copies her. The circle moves closer together as participants perform a celebratory dance to mark the wedding between the ballet’s main characters Franz and Swanhilda. To finish the session the lights are turned down and participants breathe and relax together before a final bow and well deserved round of applause. The party is over; at least until English National Ballet’s next spellbinding workshop with Lambeth Mencap.

By Aline Jewell