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Posted on July 3, 2013


hannahdempseydivinesplashettejudiewaldmannAnjali, the UK’s first company for dancers with learning disabilities, is to relaunch thanks to two large anonymous donations.


Anjali was started in 1993 as a series of contemporary dance workshops led by Nicole Thomson, now the company’s artistic director. The group became a performance company, working with leading UK choreographers including Charlotte Vincent and Matthew Hawkins. It has also provided a range of education and outreach programmes, using and developing the skills of young people with learning disabilities.


In 2011, the company was forced to cease its activities due to financial difficulties. After a last-gasp funding campaign and gala evening, it received two donations, totalling £70,000, which have allowed Anjali to relaunch and start dancing again.


Thomson said: “Anjali has been my life for 20 years, and I am so proud that it blazed a trail for disability arts and made such a massive impact on so many lives – not just on all the dancers involved and the people who passed through our education and outreach programmes, but also on the audiences whose perceptions were changed after seeing Anjali dance. Obviously I was devastated when we had to close – so I am absolutely thrilled we are able to re-launch. I truly have no idea who the two people were who made these mystery donations that have made this possible, but whoever they are, I thank them from the bottom of my heart.”


The company has also received an Arts Council Grants for the Arts award to help research and develop Genius, a new production. This will include two new pieces by choreographers Lea Anderson and Gary Clarke. The production will question society’s perception of normality, celebrating the notion of genius.


The company will celebrate its return with a showcase at the Clore Ballroom, Southbank Centre on July 9. For more information, see


Picture: Hannah Dempsey in The Divine Splashette. Photograph: Judie Waldmann


Zoë was born in Edinburgh, and saw her first dance performances at the Festival there. She is the dance critic of The Independent, and has also written for The Independent on Sunday, The Scotsman and Dancing Times. In 2002, she received her doctorate from the University of York for a thesis on “Nationhood and epic romance: Ariosto, Sidney, Spenser”. She is the author of The Royal Ballet: 75 Years and The Ballet Lover’s Companion.

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