Performing Inclusion


British Council in Sri Lanka



Duration of project


Project team

Dr Hetty Blades

Vipavinee Artpradid (PhD student. Centre for Dance Research)

    • PI, Dr. Lars Waldorf, University of Essex
    • VisAbility
    • Jesmil Abdur Raheem
    • Kishoth Navaretnarajah
    • Sulari Wibhusha
    • Rifka Amanulla
    • A D Samanmali Kumari Jayawardana
    • Sumithra Sellathamby
    • Remo Shihan
    • Raveendran Sivatharsini
    • Sivanraj Saaranhan
    • Priya Vijayaratnam
    • Karthiha Thananjan
    • Saambavi Sivanraj
    • Nila Premaratne
    • Nerushan Arunashalam
    • Jayanthan Amalanathan

Project overview

Performing Inclusion examines audience responses to dance performances by disabled people in North and East Sri Lanka and seeks to develop strategies for capacity building in ‘mixed able’ dance practices and the evaluation of arts for development activities. The project is a collaboration between University of Essex, Coventry University, VisAbility (a German and Sri Lankan ‘mixed-able’ dance organization) and 15 Sri Lankan researchers.

Performing Inclusion follows on from Performing Empowerment (AHRC/ESRC, 2016-18). Whereas Performing Empowerment focused on changes in the self-efficacy and rights awareness of disabled workshop participants, the first stage of Performing Inclusion looks at changes in the attitudes and perceptions of community members who view dance performances by disabled workshop participants (as well as the families and neighbours of the workshop participants) to evaluate whether ‘mixed-able’ dance performances have the potential to change social attitudes towards disability. The second stage of Performing Inclusion involves the examination of VisAbility’s training the trainers programme and training for students and early career researchers in Sri Lanka on evaluating arts for development activities.

Impact statement

The findings from Performing Inclusion will help to inform future program development by VisAbility and other organisations engaged in similar work. Capacity building for workshop participants and researchers will strengthen this field of research and promote further evidence and advocacy for this type of programming.

Additionally, the project serves as a contribution to the development of dance as a form of communication for positive economic, social, and cultural change in conflict-affected communities. The project also creates a foundation for a locally-led research environment that understands the micro and macro value of culturally sensitive evaluation processes for arts for development.

  • Project objectives

    • Co-create new knowledge about how the arts (in this case, dance) can promote inclusive development for disabled people by challenging and changing community perceptions.
    • Evaluate how workshops and performances run by VisAbility in villages close to Batticaloa and Jaffna impact on attitudes and perceptions towards disabled people.
    • Examine the strategies used by VisAbility during Training the Trainers workshops to evaluate their approach to capacity building.
    • Enhance the skills of local students and early career researchers in the area of evaluating arts for development, in order to strengthen this field of research and promote further evidence and advocacy for this type of programming.
    • Disseminate our research findings through: roundtable discussions in Batticaloa and Jaffna; our website; and a journal article.
    • Two roundtable discussions in Batticaloa and Jaffna that bring together the researchers, VisAbility, research trainees, workshop participants, local government officials, NGO representatives, and members of disabled people’s organizations.
    • An online blog by the researchers and trainees will enable people in Sri Lanka and further afield to keep up-to-date with the research and will underpin the development of the resource materials and journal article.
    • A “lessons learned” handbook, that collates the research practices and findings, will set out how the combination of mixed-abled dance and human rights education can be used to challenge and change perceptions about disabled people.
    • A short policy paper for donors, policymakers, and practitioners on how ‘mixed-abled’ dance performances may promote inclusive development.
    • An article in a practitioner-oriented journal such as the Journal of Human Rights Practice
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