Dancers with Down Syndrome Realising their Dreams with Stopgap Dance Company

Nicky Norton 
is the Community Dance Development Officer for Stopgap Dance Company who

She approached Downs Side Up but sadly I couldn't make it to a performance as I had other commitments (actually watching Up Down Boy), so I suggested an interview with her and 2 dancers Hannah and Chris, to showcase the incredible work of the company. Hannah and Chris both have Down's Syndrome.
Nicky said,

"Hannah Sampson has been involved with Stopgap for a number of years, firstly as a member of the original Stopgap Youth Dance Group and from 2010 as a Trainee Dancer.
Hannah completed a BTEC in Performing Arts at Kingston College in 2010. She has taken part in workshops with chorographers including Charlotte Vincent, Anthony Missen (Company Chameleon), Charlie Morrissey and Thomas Noone.
She has toured as a Trainee dancer for Stopgap both nationally and internationally in European Street Arts Festivals Tour Tracking 2012 and UK Cultural Olympiad outdoor tour SPUN Productions 2012.
Hannah danced in Chris Pavia’s choreographic works Shadowed Voices (performed at schools and conferences across the UK, as well as in Albania for the Albanian President in 2010) and Captured by the Dark (Resolution! 2013 at the Place, London)."

"The company has an online schedule that we are all able to access remotely.  Hannah is given schedules and diary updates on a regular basis.  Some days after class or when she is not rehearsing, she will be given administrative tasks or planning for workshops that she will be delivering and part of.  This gives a complete and thorough insight into the life of a Stopgap Dancer."

Chris Parkes Photography

Interview with Hannah

Have you always wanted to be a dancer and when did you start dancing?

I started dancing when I was three years old.  I did ballet, modern and tap.  I’ve always wanted to be a professional dancer who teaches dance, go on tour.

Who do you work for as a dancer?

I am a Trainee Dancer in Stopgap Dance Company.  I’m a member in Sg2

Tell me about a typical day in the life of Hannah at work.

I travel independently on trains in the morning. I take part in a company class or training.  Depends on the day plan.  We might be creating, rehearsing or admin and at times I perform in front of an audience.

Tell me about a typical day in the life of Hannah at home.

I’m a big fan of Supernatural films like the Vampire Diaries.  I go on Facebook non-stop.  I have a curry on Fridays and sometimes I go out socially with my friends.

What do you enjoy the most about your job?

Teaching young kids to dance.  I enjoy travelling independently.  I also enjoy performing abroad with the company.  I love creating dances.

How do you feel before you are about to perform in front of an audience and what do you do to get ready?

I don’t get nervous before performing. Before the performance I warm up with my co-workers.  My favourite warm-up is Gyro.

(Nicky explained, 'The Gyro Hannah talks about is Gyronkinesis, a yoga-based exercise for dancers created by Juliu Horvath.')

If you could be anything in the world what would you be?

Be a supernatural creature.

What three words would you use to describe yourself?

1. Shy
2. Weird

What is your favourite thing to do when you are not dancing?

Watching The Vampire Diaries.

What to date has been the highlight of your career as a dancer?

Rehearsing Chris Pavia’s new work.
Being the Super Lady in ‘Tracking’.
First time going to Albania with the company.

You can see Hannah dancing here in this research and development clip for Chris' new work 'Awakening'.


"With our work, we seek to offer a window 

into a parallel world where human 

interdependence, strength and 

vulnerability play out with poetic realism

Nicky continued, "Chris Pavier was the first of the current dancers to join Stopgap in 1997 as a Trainee.
He became a Stopgap apprentice in 1999 and completed a Foundation GNVQ in Performing Arts at Brooklands College, Weybridge. He became a full time dancer with the company in 2000. He has worked with choreographers Adam Benjamin, Betina Strickler, Hofesh Shechter, Thomas Mettler, Nathalie Pernette, Rob Tannion and Thomas Noone.
Chris has toured both nationally and internationally with Stopgap including Sweden Tour 2004 & 2007; Japan Tour 2009; UK National Tour Triple Bill 2005; UK National Tour Portfolio Collection 2008 – 2009; British Council Mixed Ability Dance Project Albania & Romania 2009; UK National Tour Trespass 2010 & 2011, European Street Arts Festivals Tour Tracking 2008 & 2012 and UK Cultural Olympiad outdoor tour SPUN Productions 2012.
As a choreographer Chris co-choreographed Chris et Lucy with Lucy Bennett and in 2008 was the first choreographer with a learning disability to be selected for Resolution! with Statues of Darkness. In 2010 Chris choreographed Shadowed Voices, a duet for Stopgap trainees,that has been performed at schools and conferences across the UK, as well as in Albania for the Albanian President in 2010. Most recently he choreographed Captured by the Dark for Resolution! 2013.
Chris is proud to be chosen by Mencap as someone with Downs Syndrome achieving excellence in his career and is ambitious and eager to continue developing.
Chris has collaborated with Stopgap on Triple Bill, Double Booked, Portfolio Collection, Tracking, Trespass, SPUN Productions and Artificial Things."

"Stopgap Dance Company's next major outdoor production will be choreographed by our learning disabled dance artist Chris Pavia. The production will be touring in summer 2014 and 2015.
Commissioned by the Mayor of London's Liberty Festival with support from Arts Council England.
Supported by Disability Arts Online, Salisbury Arts Centre and The Point - Eastleigh through Catalyst Programme of Arts Council England."

Chris Parkes Photography

Interview with Chris

What is the best part about your job as a dancer?

I like going on tour and meeting people especially in other countries.  And I also like the choreography that I am developing at the moment.

What is the hardest part about the job you do?

Sometimes I do find it hard as a dancer because I train myself and it takes a lot of grit and strength

If you could give some advice to others who would like a career in dance, what would that be?

As a dancer it’s good to follow your dreams because its about listening and taking a lot of corrections from other people and to learn difficult feedback and take it on the chin.

If you could be anything in the world what would you be?

I’d like to be a choreographer for Union J and One Direction because I like their music.

What three words would you use to describe yourself?


What is your favourite thing to do when you are not dancing?

Listening to Union J and One Direction.

What to date has been highlight of your career as a dancer?

Performing at the National Theatre doing ‘Spun’ to thousands.  Recently I was commissioned to make and create a new outdoor work for 2014.

Chris can be seen wearing orange in Spun, above

I've put my name on the list for forthcoming events and really hope to be able to watch and meet these talented dancers very soon. In the meantime, I wonder if Natty would enjoy dance lessons? Pity we live too far away for her to have Hannah as her teacher.

 To support the Stopgap charity and 

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