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Inclusive Dance- making inclusion the new “normal”

Murmuration is the name given to a flock of Starlings. They create incredible patterns in the sky, constantly changing and shifting, moving and flowing, they innately respond to one another and you can never quite tell who the leader is.

“I feel like this has so many parallels with how I see this company running, and also how I lead within my own artistic practice as a Director” says Sarah-Vyne Vassallo, Artistic Director. Murmuration is Sydney’s first professional performance company working with people both with and without disability.

Established in 2015, creativity and diversity sits at the heart of our practice and we facilitate this through two streams; our ‘‘making’’ stream and our ‘‘learning’’ stream. The ‘making’ stream supports professional arts practice, through the research and development of inclusive contemporary theatre. The ‘learning’ stream is open to all people to participate in the performing arts through workshops, outreach and events. These two streams also flow into one another, with our professional artists teaching our workshops, this creates potential pathways to identify and foster emerging artists.

Murmuration facilitators & children participating in Mini Murmurs class, dancing with strips of blue fabric, smiling and happy

Our learning program advocates for inclusion, welcomes diversity, and creates connections. We are passionate about re-defining the social perceptions of what people with disabilities are capable of achieving, and are championing social change to make inclusion the new “normal”.

The benefits of the performing arts

Research and experience tell us that there are many positive impacts of participating in the performing arts has on everyone. Because movement is such a diverse physical language that has been around forever, it can help to break down language, social or learning barriers, unifying people from diverse backgrounds. Having professional artists with disabilities in our company and workshops also breaks down stereotypes that dance, theatre and performance is only for one type of person. This inherently models inclusion and can inspire children and families, with a clear example of what is possible.

Mini Murmurs – Cross generational workshops

Mini Murmurs is a series of cross-generational, inclusive workshops. We ran a very successful 4-week trial program last year involving over 80 families.

We are about to commemum and hoopnce an 8-week program on Tuesday 3rd May in Marrickville. It’s a fun and creative movement class, combining a series of activities that aim to improve physical and mental well-being of parents/caregivers and their children from newborn to 5 years old, with and without disability. Local early childhood intervention, community groups and organisations are supporting us in promoting this program.


What happens in the classes?

The class is made up of creative play activities, sensory experiences, movement and improvisation tasks. Our aim is to provide an opportunity for children and their parents or carers to enjoy each other’s company and connect with others in a structured, creative and inclusive environment. The age range from 0-5 years is open and means that all children in a family are welcome.

We try to use props that can be found around the house. We made a conscious decision to do this, so that parents and caregivers could be inspired to recreate their own activities at home. For example, we put different items inside empty tissue boxes to create a sensory task where participants would have to feel the item without seeing it, and then respond to that feeling using movement or sounds. We also use other props like balloons, bubbles, tissues, shredded paper, empty formula tins, fabric strips, sponges and lots of diverse music choices.

A group of four young boys participating in Mini Murmurs class, dancing with ribbon sticksOne mum said “We have never played with sponges in that way before and (child’s name) loved the novelty and the sensory stimulation. Even if we did not get to really do what the activity was requiring us to do, she liked experiencing different ways of playing with the sponge. She saw an older boy throw the sponge in the air and did the same; then she saw another older child step on the sponge and she copied that as well. That was a great learning experience for us and having the older children around has enhanced it.”

We believe Mini Murmurs is an extremely important and unique program. We want this generation of children to grow up in a society where inclusion is “normal”, and a program like Mini Murmurs is one step closer to achieving this.

Help us make inclusion the new “normal”

Over the next month Murmuration will be running a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds to cover the running costs of our ‘learning’ stream’. With this campaign we are also aiming to promote the importance of inclusion and asking everyone to help us make inclusion the new “normal”. To find out more about Murmuration, or to support our campaign, please visit our website

Sarah-Vyne Vassallo, Artistic Director

Ana Welsh, Projects Manager

Photography by: Gisella Vollmer

Share your experiences:

How do you encourage families to participate in local community activities?

How do you use music and/or dance in your practice?

Have you used any props or activities which are particularly engaging to children?

Emma Pierce
Emma Pierce
Transition to School / Inclusion Coordinator Emma has worked in the non-government disability sector for the last 18 years. She has developed and facilitated training and resources for parents and professionals across NSW and presented papers at national and state conferences. Emma was previously the Manager of Building Blocks® Early Intervention Service at Autism Spectrum Australia (Aspect). Emma also lectures casually at Western Sydney University and works as an independent consultant to Early Childhood Intervention services. Emma is the main author of ECIA NSW’s Transition to School Resource and has worked for ECIA NSW/ACT since 2013.

1 Comment

  1. Sonia Popat says:

    What a great idea! Fun and lots of benefits for all!

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