UT Junior Explores Mixed-Ability Dance Concepts in England

Published: Aug 13, 2014
Eden Frazier ’16 has trained in classical ballet for 14 years, but this summer she chose to study dance from a different angle.
Eden Frazier ’16 has trained in classical ballet for 14 years, but this summer she chose to study dance from a different angle.

» Read Eden Frazier's blog with photos

Eden Frazier ’16 has trained in classical ballet for 14 years, but this summer she chose to study dance from a different angle.

Frazier spent three weeks with Gloucestershire Dance, or GDance, a mixed-ability dance company based in Gloucester, England. GDance promotes inclusive practice and strategic collaboration with national and local art and education partners, Frazier explained.

Frazier, an applied dance and physics double major with a minor in mathematics, said the focus of her trip was inspired by what she was learning through Professor Susan Taylor Lennon’s dance program, which highlights the incorporation of everyone, all abilities, into dance.

“We tend to compartmentalize dancers thinking only the skinniest and most flexible are best suited,” Frazier said. “We don’t think of double amputees, but they are still creative when given the opportunity to express themselves.”

Frazier discovered GDance while listening to a BBC radio special.

“I looked up the company and was enthralled by what I saw. Dancers in wheelchairs, dancers missing limbs, dancers with learning disabilities: I had never seen anything quite like it before,” Frazier wrote in her application for the award. “I immediately felt remorse for all the times I had complained about my aching feet; here were people dancing their hearts out who could not even use their feet. With that feeling of remorse came a feeling of motivation. I knew I would love to work with such inspirational dancers to better appreciate the amazing work they do and to encourage myself to become a better dancer.”

Frazier helped with a variety of tasks for GDance’s administrative office as well as with the production of a travelling piece the company was performing, offering everything from tech support and marketing research to mending costumes and observing and participating in dance classes and symposiums.

Frazier, of Parrish, FL, was this year’s recipient of the Timothy M. Smith Inspiration Through Exploration Award, an annual grant given to stimulate international travel and writing among Honors Program students. The award was established to honor the life of Smith, a lawyer by trade, whose true passion was traveling the world.

Past recipients have taught English and cared for elephants in Sri Lanka, studied Spanish in Costa Rica, learned about dolphin-assisted therapy in Turkey and worked with researchers from the Pacific Whale Foundation in Australia.