Alex McCabe | Music and Dance Practitioner Alex is a freelance dance artist and choreographer who helps to facilitate our M3 dance programme, as well as playing musically with us in workshops and live performances. We sat down with him to find out about his experiences of M3, and how his personal artistic practice has evolved since working with Paragon. Hi Alex, can you start off by telling us a bit about your creative background and how you started out in music and dance? Sure, I’ve played music since childhood but I found my way into dance a bit later on during my university studies, which were actually in languages at the time. I'd started playing music in a totally informal way with various dance ensembles and that got me hooked on the movement side of things. From there I ended up getting involved in more and more projects that allowed me the opportunity to self-train in dance, before Dance Base offered me a couple of years on their post-graduate training programme - which was where I got my formal training. And how did you first hear about Paragon? Through Caroline Bowditch and the M3 Summer School, which I joined at the same time as Zac and Ruth (Paragon practitioners). Working with Caroline really broadened my horizons, especially because it came at a time in my formal training when I was getting ballet drummed into me - she taught me that there were much broader options in dance. Doing the practitioner training was cool too because it helped me get into the music side of Paragon, which was really valuable. It was a great bunch of folk to be training alongside too, and there was also a strong disability and equalities component to it, with Robert Softly Gale, which has really stayed with me. Can you describe a typical M3 session? I'd say it always starts with an informal, fun, chatty atmosphere - a fair amount of joking around! And we make sure to have a large staff-to-participant ratio, compared to other programmes that are available out there, so everyone gets the right amount of attention and support. So when we've settled in, we usually get into a circle and there’s a period where everyone can share something, individually, and we start to build up a vocabulary of interests and personalities before getting into a set of warm up movements based on the ideas we’ve generated. We then try to take the initial ideas on a bit of a journey, usually involving applying some of the principles of ‘universal design’ in dance; an accessible learning and moving method pioneered by Jürg Koch at the University of Washington. In some ways, it’s the principle that M3 is founded on, and something Caroline brought to Paragon in the early days. What do you think draws people to M3? I think people come to M3 for lots of different reasons, but in a general sense I think most are there for the friendships, and also the pleasure of creating works together and the thrill of performing them. We also try to develop individual aspirations where we can, whether that’s a person’s technical or choreographic interests, or other creative leadership skills. What are some of your fondest moments from M3? Some of my favourite moments often happen when parents see our shows, after we’ve been working together for a week or so and devised a piece. They sometimes discover that there’s a side to their child that they might never have seen - for example their ability to engage in physical touch with other people, which they might not usually do. It’s really exciting to see those barriers come down where possible. Another fond memory was when Jodie Taylor, one of our M3 artists, went on to secure funding make her own show which toured around various venues in Scotland. I was asked to perform in it, and it was great feeling to have the process come full circle! You’ve also been delivering a Paragon project in Italy recently, around inclusive dance - how’s that been going? It’s been great, especially to see that even though the dance landscape is quite different there, the practices of inclusion that I’m so familiar with now have been really welcomed. And would you say your work with Paragon feeds into your personal creative practice? Absolutely. Whenever I’m teaching a dance class, in any context, with people I don’t know, I always hope for and prepare for a diversity of bodies and learners - which is definitely a product of how my learning path has been enriched by Paragon along the way. I try to be similarly accessible and inclusive in my choreographic work, I suppose I’m always making things with the principle in mind that there should be multiple ways of interacting with them.