“I Felt So Proud of Myself”

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Abstract

Although people with disabilities have been subject to the pathologizing gaze of biomedicine for centuries, dance might facilitate a sense of control, allowing individuals to recast their lives anew as dancers. The dance experiences of people with intellectual disabilities have not been included in mainstream dance literature. Drawing on narrative methodologies, our purpose was to explore the experiences of eight young adults with intellectual disabilities—and their six respite staff and caregivers—in a nine-month community-based dance program in Winnipeg, Canada. The program enhanced body-movement self-relationships, facilitated an authentic sense of acceptance by Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet School, contributed toward an expanded social self, and led to a sense of social connection with the teacher and fellow dancers. Based on the findings, we suggest that despite an elite history, dance may be used as a vehicle to facilitate wellbeing, achieve social change, and rethink the norms that underlie notions of artistic excellence for people with intellectual disabilities.