Who we are

About

Anjali Dance Company celebrates the creative abilities and artistic potential of people with learning disabilities.

Through its innovative and pioneering work, Anjali demonstrates exciting new possibilities in dance and engages the professional dance community in a debate about aesthetics, form, purpose and inclusion.

Anjali works with world-class dance artists and choreographers to create and tour original dance work which is performed by dancers with learning disabilities.

Anjali’s dancers have performed at venues throughout the UK, including the Royal Festival Hall, Sadler’s Wells and the Royal Opera House in London (with dancers from the Royal Ballet, in a performance described as “absolutely wonderful”) and at venues in Europe. Anjali’s performances have been highly praised by critics and reviewers.

Anjali also has a successful youth dance company, Young Anjali, and a unique Education and Outreach team of dancers with learning disabilities who teach and lead workshops.

Young Anjali is open to people with learning disabilities aged between 13 and 24 who want to learn to dance and perform alongside their friends.

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Inclusive social integration and excellence

Anjali Dance Company enables people with learning disabilities to achieve excellence, provides positive role models, and encourages the integration and inclusion of people with learning disabilities in the Arts and in society. Anjali’s innovative and pioneering work has created a radical new perspective on contemporary dance.

“Anjali’s Artistic Vision let its dancers thrive and excel.”

Artistic Vision

Anjali Dance Company celebrates through dance the creative potential of people with learning disabilities.

We are committed to challenging preconceptions about who can dance, and demonstrating new artistic possibilities by creating dance works of excellence which are performed by dancers with learning disabilities.

We also provide education and outreach programmes which are taught by our unique education team of teachers with learning disabilities. Through our innovative and pioneering work, we engage the professional dance community in a debate on fundamental issues about aesthetics, form, purpose and inclusion.

Anjali empowers learning-disabled dancers as creative artists by actively supporting and promoting their artistic development. 

We demonstrate the extraordinary and previously unsuspected talents and creative abilities of people with learning disabilities. Anjali was one of the first dance companies in the world to provide a framework in which people with learning disabilities could train to achieve their highest potential, both as performers and teachers.

Anjali’s artistic work has its roots in contemporary dance, with strong elements of other art forms such as physical theatre and film.

Original works by world-class choreographers and in-house pieces are presented with high production values. Anjali’s dancers are central to the choreographic process, and choreographers are chosen who will question their practice and be open to new ways of working. Anjali’s choreographers are committed to pushing the boundaries of dance and the way it is presented.

Nicole Thomson, Anjali’s founder, believed that a powerful new quality could emerge from a company of people with learning disabilities.

Anjali’s work questions traditional aesthetics and form in a way that has not happened before and changes perceptions about what dance is and who can do it. Anjali’s dancers are treated with respect as artists who happen to have learning disabilities, not as people with learning disabilities who happen to dance.

We are privileged to have been able to nurture and develop the extraordinary skill and artistic power of the learning-disabled artists we have worked with.

Our dancers have spontaneously developed an entirely new performing style that is unguarded, elegant, humorous, truthful and bold, and they inspire and astonish audiences in the UK and abroad wherever they perform.

By devising and touring dance work of the highest standard, we demonstrate an engaging and challenging aesthetic that brings a new dimension to contemporary dance

“Anjali Dance Company was formed by Performing Arts tutor Nicole Thomson in 1995 at The Mill Arts Centre in Banbury, Oxfordshire

History

Anjali Dance Company was formed in 1995 at The Mill Arts Centre in Banbury, Oxfordshire, by Performing Arts tutor Nicole Thomson, who became the company’s Artistic Director.

Nicole had been inspired by seeing the work of a learning-disabled theatre company and had formed a strong belief in the creative potential of people with learning disabilities. She believed that learning-disabled people could be empowered to create exceptional art through dance and movement expression, demonstrating for the first time that people with learning disabilities could be capable of extraordinary and moving artistic creativity. From that vision, Anjali Dance Company was born.

In 1998 Anjali embarked on a three-year training and touring programme Moving On Up. As part of this programme, a triple bill Moving Ideas toured in 1999. In 2000 the company was commissioned by the Royal Festival Hall to create a new work which was premiered at Blazing Dance Festival 2000. This work, Prosperous Beach, received a four-star review in The Guardian. As part of this festival, Anjali hosted a national debate about disability dance at the South Bank.

Anjali’s second programme, Through New Eyes, toured in 2001-2 to critical acclaim. The company performed Through New Eyes in the Purcell Room at the South Bank Centre in London, the first disabled dance company to perform at the South Bank before a paying audience. As a result of this, Anjali was invited to perform at London’s Royal Opera House with dancers from the Royal Ballet.

In 2003 Anjali developed the WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) touring programme. WYSIWYG fused technology, film and exhilarating dance. The production toured to 17 UK venues in 2003-4, including the Lilian Baylis Studio at Sadler’s Wells in London. Anjali’s dancers also performed WYSIWYG as the finale of the European Year of the Disabled festival in Lisbon, Portugal, the company’s first international performance.

In 2004 Anjali received funding from the Learning and Skills Council for a three-year accredited learning programme for dancers with learning disabilities. This programme included events at venues such as Modern Art Oxford and Milton Keynes Theatre and a collaboration with Oxford Brookes University.

The next production, Something Wild, toured successfully in the UK in 2006-7. Something Wild featured in Spring Loaded at The Place in London and was also performed at Berlin and Reutlingen in Germany.

Anjali’s highly successful youth dance company, Young Anjali, was formed in 2006. In 2007, Young Anjali appeared on Channel 4’s Three Minute Wonder in a specially commissioned film made in collaboration with Youth Dance England. Young Anjali was selected for five consecutive years to perform at the U.Dance National Youth Dance Festival run by Youth Dance England. The company has performed at venues which include Birmingham Hippodrome, London’s Queen Elizabeth Hall and Northern Ballet in Leeds.

Oxford Playhouse commissioned a series of solos, Unexploded Stories, which premiered at the Burton Taylor Studio in Oxford in 2008 and toured alongside other work in 2008-9.

In 2009 Anjali was invited to present work at Decibel Festival in Manchester. T4Two was made for this festival and was subsequently toured with a selection of solos and duets in 2010.

In 2009 Anjali’s dancers performed a piece for the Opening Ceremony of the Summer Special Olympics before an audience of 25,000 people, and again at the Flame Lighting Ceremony for the 2012 Paralympics. The company made Fruit for Thought for Resolution 2011 at The Place in London. In 2012 T4Two played for two nights in Madrid.

In 2013 the company undertook research and development for a new show with choreographers Lea Anderson (founder and Artistic Director of The Cholmondeleys and Featherstonehaughs) and Gary Clarke, which culminated in a successful press launch and showing at the Royal Festival Hall in London. The two pieces which emerged from this process, Beethoven and Bloodsucker, were toured in the UK and abroad as Genius in 2017 and 2018.

In early 2017, Anjali was invited by the British Council to take part in an international seminar on Arts and Disability in Mexico City, where the company was presented as an example of what had been achieved in disability arts in the UK. Artistic Director Nicole Thomson spoke about Anjali’s experience as one of the world’s first learning-disabled dance companies. Dancers Hannah Dempsey and Daisy Garrett received a standing ovation when they performed a duet, The Reflection, as the main performance of the event. Anjali was invited back to Mexico to participate in two more festivals.

Together we make it happen

The Team

Dancers

Daisy Garrett

Daisy Garrett

Dancer

Nick McKerrow

Nick McKerrow

Dancer

Holly Riseborough

Holly Riseborough

Dancer

Lauren Payne

Lauren Payne

Dancer

Management and Creative Team

Alex Henwood

Alex Henwood

Director

Naomi Russell

Naomi Russell

Company Administrator

Rachel Liggitt

Rachel Liggitt

Outreach Manager

Josh Tomalin

Josh Tomalin

Technical Manager

Lisa Ziemann

Lisa Ziemann

Dance Artist

Rob Hemming

Rob Hemming

Dance Artist

Kate Taylor

Kate Taylor

Dance Artist

Past Dancers

Jason Manito Dancer

Jason Manito Dancer

Dancer

Alex Hyde

Alex Hyde

Dancer

Frances Weir

Frances Weir

Dancer

Mark Barber

Mark Barber

Dancer

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