Tiffany Tjosvold had been pursuing dance since childhood, but when she was in college she was unexpectedly struck by a form of arthritis affecting all the joints in her body and in an instant her future on the dance floor was in doubt.
“Once we figured out what it was we developed a really solid treatment plan and I’m cruising along well,” she said, looking back nearly 10 years.
“But I suddenly went from being able to dance all the time to I struggled to pick up a coffee cup. So that definitely impeded taking dance in a traditional dance setting.”
That diagnosis brought to Tjosvold’s attention the dearth of dance options for people with differing levels of ability and served as the catalyst to exploring how to make arts more inclusive.
Tjosvold said her own health eventually recovered and she soon began organizing dance camps with programming specially designed with people with physical and cognitive considerations in mind.
She formed the Embrace Arts Foundation, which for the past four years been offering summer camps in Victoria.
Tjosvold, the group’s executive director, has since added a children’s program and last year Embrace Arts became a non-profit organization with music, art and theatre streams.
“The response has been incredibly positive towards our camps,” Tjosvold said.
“One of our main mandates is just to create meaningful artistic opportunities for people of all abilities, so just setting it up in a manner that people feel free to explore.”
From Aug. 13 to 17 Tjosvold is leading her Dance in Your Freedom Adaptive Dance Camp in Nanaimo for the first time. The camp is open to participants above the age of 13.
“I’m just really excited to connect with the community up there,” she said.
Tjosvold said past campers and acquaintances living in Nanaimo asked her if she would consider offering the camp up Island and this summer she’s giving it a try. She said the camp will include a variety of dance as well as some music, fitness and art programming.
“For me it’s just really satisfying to be able to provide that opportunity,” she said.
WHAT’S ON … Embrace Arts Foundation’s Dance in Your Freedom Adaptive Dance Camp comes to Vibe Dance Studio, 1969 Boxwood Rd., from Aug. 13 to 17. More information at www.embracearts.org.