The work began in the 1970’s via community education. Marie Ware, the founder of Dance Voice, was developing contemporary dance in that context, and education and health professionals who attended her classes identified the relevance of expressive dance for their populations with disabilities.
At that time there was government focus on people in long stay mental handicap and psychiatric institutions that were denied access to community education. Grants from the Arts Council enabled artists/practitioners to take their work into these institutions. On this basis, Marie piloted dance movement therapy in these institutions and this work was consolidated by the institutions then employing Marie so that the work could continue. At the same time, Marie developed dance movement therapy in special schools and also was employed by South Bristol College (now City of Bristol College) to develop Arts/Care training programmes.
Marie’s pioneering work was in demand and there was need to expand resources to service this – so at this point Dance Voice came into being as a registered charity in 1989. A successful funding bid (£60,000 over three years) enabled Marie to employ a co-worker and develop training to enable people to work alongside her in hospitals.
Closure of the long stay institutions and the move towards Care in the Community meant that Dance Voice needed a community base. We were already using our present base, the Quaker Meeting House in Wedmore Vale, to deliver classes for South Bristol College – hence this seemed a natural place to transfer if available. This was welcomed by the Quakers and Dance Voice was offered and accepted a management lease on the building.
Marie Ware’s vision of expanding the education of her working approach has been fulfilled as the training and courses at Dance Voice continue to develop, broadening people’s awareness of Dance Movement Psychotherapy. Alongside the education, her unique therapy approach has gone from strength to strength as the number of clients that Dance Voice provide therapy for continues to grow.