Pioneering disabled choreographer Lisa Simpson is working with Salford students on a dance to be performed next month.

Lisa, who is the founder of Lisa Simpson Inclusive Dance and creator of the Simpson Board, is creating a 20-minute dance piece that Salford University students will perform as part of their assessment on November 8 at the Adelphi Theatre.

Ms Simpson has quadriplegia cerebral palsy. She is a wheelchair user and has no verbal communication. However, she is able to choreograph through the Simpson Board.

The Simpson Board was created as Ms Simpson was studying for her Art and Design GCSE. Adam Benjamin, co-founder of Candoco Dance Company, realised that Ms Simpson showed how she wanted to move stones with her eyes. From this, he had the idea that the same could be done with bodies on a stage with choreography.

The Simpson board developed and began being used in 1995. A Simpson board consists of a laminated piece of paper that has words, symbols and diagrams written on it. From that the choreographer can use their eyes to point to the different parts of the board and that tells the dancers what they need to do.

Due to the different adaptations of the board, others have been using versions of the Simpson board to choreograph their own pieces in many ways. Ms Simpson also holds translator courses to help more people use the boards.

Through her translator Sophie Barrow, Ms Simpson said: “[The development of the Simpson board] was an incredible feeling especially as I had always assumed my disability would stop me being a choreographer.

“It is remarkably inspiring to watch participants fulfill new potential and developing new skills in choreography. I now work nationally building an awareness of my practice and enabling more people to realise their true potential.”

Ms Simpson is also an artist in residence at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) and met one of her translators, Ms Barrow, whilst working there. Ms Barrow started working as Lisa’s translator in her third year at the university after she found a placement with the choreographer.

Ms Barrow said:

“Lisa is one of the most intelligent people I have ever met and it is a completely different experience working with her. It really brought to light my interest in dance and what I want to do with it for my own career.”

Lisa has choreographed many dance pieces and one of Lisa’s UCLan pieces, Ripple, will show alongside the Salford piece on November 8th. For the students themselves, having Lisa as their choreographer is something they have never done before. However, inclusivity like this is very important to them.

Robin Stewart, one of the dancers Lisa is working with at Salford, said: “It is something we look into quite a lot on the course and I think having Lisa here now is such a massive step for the university toward inclusive dance being a big part of the curriculum”

Summer Katz, another dancer on the course, added: “I think it is really important that it’s for everybody and that everybody should be able to enjoy it”

After the piece is shown on November 8, Lisa has even more plans.

Ms Barrow said: “Lisa’s plan is to have a triple bill, so three different pieces of dance, and to take it and tour it all around the world. That’s her big ambition.

“Her next two projects will be in Birmingham so that’s her next steps. Before taking world domination.”

Featured Image Credit: Rene Mcintosh

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