Challenging perspectives of dance and disability

20 February 2012

Jolt Dance Trust in Christchurch celebrate the unique qualities of its dancers and challenges perspectives about dance and disability, enabling people with disabilities to have a creative voice.

Presented Arts Access Aotearoa’s Big ‘A’ Creative Space Award 2009, Jolt Dance aims to:
•    offer regular, ongoing dance training for people with and without disabilities
•    provide public performance opportunities that promote mixed-ability dance
•    explore the boundaries and perceptions of what dance is
•    challenge conventional attitudes about disabilities.

The Paperbag PrincessThe first Jolt class was set up in 2001 with the support of the Christchurch City Council KiwiAble programme and has grown consistently since then. The classes are the heart of Jolt and offer dance training for all ages and abilities. There are eight classes in Christchurch and Dunedin, catering for everyone from three to 60, and of all abilities. Classes focus on movement, exploring dance and physical theatre to build confidence, creative expression and connections between people.

These classes have become a place where families and carers can meet in a supportive and positive environment. Students from local secondary schools and overseas visitors are among those volunteering at the classes.

Passing on its experience

Jolt is committed to passing on its experience, and offers workshops and support for groups wanting to establish their own dance programmes. It has facilitated workshops in Invercargill, Dunedin and Christchurch, and has established a permanent class in Dunedin.

Claudia Cassin and Kelsey Te Kaat in In 2004, it won the New Zealand Recreation Association Outstanding Programme Award and in 2005, it performed to more than 5000 people in the closing ceremony of the Special Olympics in Christchurch.

Jolt performance companies grew out of the work done in the classes. Jolt Dance Company was established in 2002 and Jolt Youth in 2007. Both companies bring together dancers with and without disabilities, professional and amateur, and have established a reputation for beautiful, quirky and innovative works.

Jolt dancers are central to the choreographic process and provide the inspiration for the work. Together, Jolt Dance and Jolt Youth have created eight major shows (including sell-out seasons in the Christchurch Body Festival), conference performances, and special works for the Halberg Trust and Special Olympics.


Jolt Dance has toured to Wellington and Dunedin. “Our vision is to develop work to take internationally and make mixed-ability performance the norm rather than the exception,” says its Artistic Director, Lyn Cotton.

Erica Viedma and Stephen Krammer in Among the feedback Jolt Dance receives, this is what one parent of a son with special needs wrote after seeing a Jolt Youth performance: “The performances provided a wonderful reminder that I am privileged to have a son who can gain so much pleasure from music and movement … You should be proud of your achievements and your amazing students.”

Other feedback includes: “Poignant and powerful performances” (Jennifer Sheehan, Dominion Post, 2003); “inspiring and innovative dance shows" (the Hon. Nanaia Mahuta, Minister of Youth Affairs, 2006); “the production truly delighted the audience ... long may Jolt continue its work” (Alan Scott, The Press, 2008); “On Her Own Two Feet is provocative and intense ... a stunning and thought provoking performance” (Nicola Muir, DANZ, 2008).

For more information:
Lyn Cotton
Artistic Director
T: 03 381 4995
M: 021 152 8600



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