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CLAIMING SPACES ARTISTS WITH DISABILITIES REDEFINING DANCE VOLUME II

ISSUE 007.2 March 2017 ISSN 2206-9615


PUBLICATION STAFF

Critical Path STAFF

Editor

Director

Dr Laura Osweiler

Claire Hicks

Designer

General Manager

Keegan Spring

Dr Laura Osweiler

Accessibility Advisor

Project Manager

Accessible Arts

Bibi Serafim

Contributors Chang Chung-An Linda Luke Danielle Micich Jodee Mundy Joshua Pether Matt Shilcock

Critical Dialogues is a biannual online publication. The next issue is scheduled for July 2017. Sign up to Critical Path’s e-news to stay informed. Criticalpath.org.au


CONTENTS Introduction

Dr Laura Osweiler

Beyond Eugenics

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8

18

28

38

46

Matt Shilcock

The Choreography of Touch Jodee Mundy

Off the Record Danielle Micich

Lost in Grey Chang Chung-An

Dance Diaries Linda Luke

The Place of the Dancer with a Disability in the Contemporary Dance World Joshua Pether

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INTRODUCTION -

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DR Laura Osweiler Critical Dialogues #7 ‘Claiming Spaces –

With this collection I took a ‘danceaturgical’

Choreographers with Disabilities Redefining

approach; offering choreographers space

Dance’ was my first project as Critical

to think, reflect and create. The artists

Dialogues’ copy editor. Through working

and I had written and verbal conversations

with that edition’s guest editor, Sarah-Vyne

in order to facilitate unpacking and

Vassallo, I had the honour of engaging with

contextualising their choreographic

some remarkable artists with disability

aims. I wanted to gain an understanding

and their collaborators. Since my recent

of how and why each artist approaches

move to Australia, I have engaged with

choreography and open that up to readers.

others at events such as Accessible Arts’ Arts Activated Conference, the Catalyst

Overall questions in this process included:

Dance residency hosted at the Drill Hall last

- What questions and areas are you

year, Force Majeure and Dance Integrated

exploring and creating?

Australia collaboration ‘Off the Record’ at

- What are the practical actions, tasks, tools

Carriageworks and just by talking about the

you employ to investigate your questions

last edition of Critical Dialogues. Through

and topics?

these exchanges, Critical Path’s team saw

- How and why do you make one choice

very quickly how the journal was meeting

over another?

the needs of artists with disabilities and knew we needed to produce volume #7.2.

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Additionally, my aim was to have at least a glimpse into how their identities and histories situate and support personal questions, focuses and making of works. Each writer in the second edition of this volume (CD#7) demonstrates how artists create work out of the material they live, and how they foster new and unique choreographic approaches. Their actions as artists cut through and around different spaces – social, political, artistic. The work foregrounds tensions, and questions the positions and actions, of artists with disabilities in ‘mainstream’ dance and society. By developing and inhabiting fringe areas and new centres (venues, content, technique) they develop spaces to work and thrive. These artists embody changing perspectives and perceptions of what dance is, who is a dancer, which techniques are acceptable and who can answer these questions. Each of them claims, reclaims, forms and opens spaces to create change.

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Dr Laura Osweiler BIO Dr Laura (Amara) Osweiler is the General Manager at Critical Path. She has a PhD in Dance History and Theory from the University of California, Riverside. For almost twenty years, Laura has been an independent producer in the United States and now Sydney. Her work include concerts, workshops, and conventions such as the Austin Belly Dance Convention, An Evening of Experimental Middle Eastern Dance (EEMED), X–MED – workshops on experimental dance, and Improvisational Dance Series. She is also a practicing artist, performing as a soloist and in dance companies and teaching dance and pedagogy at several university and festivals.

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BEYOND EUGENICS -

8


MATT SHILCOCK As I prepare for two months of travel,

grander picture, the fulfilment I receive

first to Thailand for the 5th International

from dancing makes the pain worthwhile.

Interdisciplinary No Borders Project in

I would rather break a leg on stage doing

Chiang Mai, Thailand, and then onto

something innovative than at the shops

Nottingham, UK for an exchange program

reaching for the next purchase.

between Critical Path and Dance4, I would like to share my history, current practice

I call my practice ‘Osteogenuine’, a metho-

and works in development.

dology of movement that stays genuine or authentic to the needs and considerations

Diagnosed at birth with Osteogenesis

that living with OI places on my body. It’s

Imperfecta (OI), commonly known as

a continuous exploration and adaptation

‘brittle bone disorder’, I live with an

in choreography, reacting in real-time to

increased risk of skeletal fractures

what is happening inside and outside of

and injuries. My interest in dance lies

the ever-changing landscape of my body.

in the rehabilitative, empowering and

As I am at a higher risk of injury than

strengthening qualities dance has to offer. 

an average, physio-typical dancer, it is important for me to find ways to engage

During my [dance] career, I’ve had some

with dance that is both safe to perform

really serious injuries, including breaking

and interesting to watch. I achieve this by

my pelvis in 2014. Although severe, in the

devising a catalogue of movement phrases

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that I can draw on should the worst

‘How can I transition through levels,

scenarios happen, giving me the ability to

navigating my body’s restrictions both

adapt in real time to whatever challenges I

safely and comfortably?’

made be faced with on stage: injury, pain, A way to convey this experience in a

areas of immobility, etc.

workshop environment to people living The process of this involves recognising

without these specific impairments is

and working around boundaries of physical

through restrictive costuming.

limitations and injury and adapting choreography to work with injury and seamlessly

To create a physically sustainable dance

integrate mobility aid devices on stage.

practice, I incorporate holistic healing systems. I am mentored by international choreographer Vangelis Legakis,

‘I would rather break a leg on

founder of Embodied Unity. Vangelis graduated from Laban Center (London,

stage doing something innovative

UK) with BA in Dance Theatre and MA in Choreography. He has been visiting

than at the shops reaching for

the Forsythe Company regularly since 2004. His work is influenced by major

the next purchase.’

dance artists, William Forsythe, Julyen Hamilton, David Zambrano, Gill Clarke, Rosemary Butcher and Rosalind Crisp.

Examples include using pain as a sensation

Vangelis is amalgamating his experience

to explore the perimeters of movement and

and knowledge from diverse dance artists

investigating restriction and omission to

including energy work so as to provide a

introduce a new vocabulary of movement.

holistic approach into dance pedagogy

This exploration is a constant monitoring of

and performance.

where I am in the moment: I initially met Vangelis when I attended ‘How much can I move this joint? What is

the 2nd ‘International Interdisciplinary

the limit of my extension?’

No Borders’ project in Xiamen, China in 2013. Vangelis’ techniques and approach

‘Does this hurt? Can I tolerate it? How

to improvised pedagogy and composition

much is too much?’

resonated very positively with my own practice. Due to my physical condition, I

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often cannot rely on my body to move the

Unity and explore relationships between

same way consistently. Therefore, I need

the internal organs and the 5 Taoist Elements

to make constant choices adaptations to

of Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water and

be able to perform dance safely. Vangelis’

the sensorial and emotional connections

methods suit my needs very well, not only

with each. An example of a task could

in organising and mapping my body and

be to visualise the meridian lines (energy

movement pathways, but layering intent

channels) in the body. Where they are

and performative aspects on the material.

located and how do they flow? Where they connect and to what? These lines in

Vangelis’ practice incorporates healing

the body can act as a pathway to move in

modalities from Qi Gong, Tai Chi, Kundlini

space or to initiate contact with a partner,

Yoga, Craniosacral therapy and Meditation

object or surface; for instance, by conn-

with improvised movement and instant

ecting your liver to the liver of your dance

composition methodologies. Traditional

partner or tracing the meridian line of

Chinese Medicine and Universal Healing

the liver on a wall. Another level to this

Taoism are also a huge influence in

would be to explore ways The Elements

my choreographic and dramaturgical

relate to each other. A task could be to

compositions. As a foundation to explore

explore how the Liver (Wood) relates to

movement, I am inspired by Embodied

the Kidney (Water) and the emotional,

Matt Shilcock wearing a white plague doctor mask at the Underbelly Festival 2015. Photograph by Gabriel Clark

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physical and sensorial connections that

and inspired by Darwin’s work ‘Origin of

become available from that connection,

Species’. Galton proposed ideas and social

whether that is a physical connection

philosophies of selective breeding. His work

between two or more bodies or exploring

had two main features. One was to increase

an internal connection in one’s own body.

the human gene pool with valuable and

The generative cycle of the Elements

desirable genetic traits (known as ‘positive

depicts that Water nourishes Wood, so one

eugenics’), such as strength, dexterity,

could explore either how the two relate

specific cosmetic and behavioural

in a nurturing sense or create conflict by

qualities). While simultaneously, he called

reversing the flow. The choreographic and

for eliminating the undesirable or ‘invalid’

dramaturgical possibilities that arise from

traits through genocide and abortion

this exploration are limitless.

(known as ‘negative eugenics’).

Vangelis and I collaborate in the ‘Dance

‘Eujeanix’ expands on an interpretation

and Being Art Project’, an ongoing

natural selection or ‘survival of the fittest.

workshop series in Australia, hosted

Research for this process will involve

in Adelaide in (September 2014 & May

exploring eugenic propaganda, texts and

2015) and Melbourne (May & October

devising movement inspired by a variety of

2016) that explores the Embodied Unity

sources including excerpts from speeches

methodologies. This project is intended to

of historical figures, political campaign

become a regular occurring event around

materials and books written on the subject,

Australia, with future workshops planned

both for and against eugenics.

for Melbourne, Sydney and regional NSW. I also participated at the ‘International

Although eugenics for many is

Interdisciplinary No Borders’ projects

predominantly associated with Nazi

(December 2013 & 2016), a month-long

Germany and the Holocaust, eugenic

workshop hosted in a different city and

principles have been practised as far

country each year.

back as Ancient Greece and Egypt, with the disposal of babies born with

During my time at the Dance4 Exchange,

certain undesired traits (sometimes as

I will be undertaking choreographic

insignificant as facial structure).

exploration and development of ‘Eujeanix’, a triptych of work themed around eugenics

Aspects of eugenics are still practiced

and the social philosophies of Francis

today by every nation. Many political

Galton, the half cousin to Charles Darwin

policies and structures encourage

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Matt Shilcock looking at the camera at the Underbelly Festival 2015. Photograph by Gabriel Clark

and/or facilitate the procreation and

his extensive experience in dance making

passive genocide of people of particular

and unique zoomorphic choreography.

genetic traits. And of course, a person’s

Dean has shown a deep level of personal

relationship to them depend up their

interest in the development of my

position within socio-economics, race,

practice, has been a mentor and friend

gender, religion, etc. As a person with a

since the very beginnings of my career,

disability, I am interested in learning more

and we have worked together on

about the philosophies that challenge my

numerous secondments. Subjects

validity and right to exist.

of evolution, genetics, mutation and eugenics are mutual interests.

The ‘Eujeanix’ triptych’s titles include, ‘The Likes of Me’ (performed at Underbelly

‘The Likes of Me’ is a contemporary

Arts festival 2015), ‘Invalid:Dated’ (to

dance/movement theatre artwork with an

be developed at Dance4) and a third,

abstract narrative and autobiographical

currently untitled work. I am mentored

content. This work has been in the making

throughout this process by Sydney

for four years, ever since I started working

based choreographer, dramaturge and

with Dean Walsh in 2011 and with Restless

multidisciplines artist, Dean Walsh, with

Dance Theatre. My invitation to present at

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the Underbelly Arts festival allowed me the

segregative, as physical, sensorial and

perfect platform to culminate my ongoing

cognitive impairments are being explored

mentorship with Dean and the ideas that

in a vastly spectral sense) and declared

we had envisioned into a 30-minute work.

as traits that should be destroyed rather

The dance itself takes experiences from

than respected. It does not take much

my youth and distorts them into a surreal

research to find cases of the abortion of

dream world which we invite the audience

defective fetuses, chemical castration,

to inhabit and share. The work explores

social segregation and generational

my experiences as an ‘invalid’ through

breeding out or bloodlines and entire

imagery. Using the available assets of the

races. When you watch science fiction

site, I create elaborate audience interactive

movies about Governments creating the

sets and costumes that defied being

‘perfect soldiers’ through cloning and

specifically one thing or another, e.g. a

programming, do you forget or oversee

spider web of medical bandage weaves

(and perhaps intentionally) that human

together a forest of lifeless tree limbs and

kind has been actively doing this selective

a carpentry bench becomes a medical

breeding for hundreds of years?

examination table prepped for a tea party. Second instalment in the ‘Eujeanix’ Performers roam throughout the audience

series ‘Invalid:Dated’ will explore

during the duration of the performance, to

eugenic practises throughout history,

play with segregation between performer

creating nebulous representations of

and audience (whilst preoccupying the

historical eras with significant eugenic

space physically) by sometimes interacting

events. The exploration will range from

with the audience and sometimes ignoring

ancient, modern and future eras and

them completely. Abstract and nightmarish

epochs of human history. Scenes in this

characters are embodied: ‘The Stork’, a

work comprise of artistic renditions of

folk lore-ish creature drawing inspiration

factual events, presented to blur the line

from 16th Century Plague Doctors and

of morality and have the viewer really

creatures from a range of legends from

question their values, actions and role

around the world, and ‘Spectare’, a living

in society (i.e.: were soldiers of Nazi

Chimera of medical imaging and surgical

Germany simply ‘doing what they were

staples. Each one explores the fantastical

told’? Would YOU follow a trend like

and mythical qualities that generally would

that?). Invalid:Dated aims to have the

be considered ‘disabilities’ (a label that is

audience question and explore their

becoming less defined, yet somehow more

own moral standing on issues such as

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racial segregation, religious extremity, euthanasia (both voluntary and enforced), stigmatisation of mental and physical

Article Cover Image of Matt Shilcock wearing a

health and disability and inequalities and

white plague doctor mask at the Underbelly Festival

prejudice in gender and sex. To ensure

2015. Photograph by Gabriel Clark

this work can cover such immense topics (each worthy of their own full length piece) without ‘glossing over’ or blanketing the issues, it will feature quotes from historical and contemporary figures, to allow the audience to develop opinions and discussions independent of the material and/or the artists’ view. Socio-economic status, location and population, through living conditions and reproduction of demographics, can be either the product or the instigation of eugenic outcomes (sometimes both at the same time). The intention of this triptych is to challenge the dissociation of the majority of people as to how eugenic philosophies affect their lives and the lives of people around them. In reality, eugenics is being openly practiced through a range of social, political and economic spectrums that affect the human race as a whole. The next few months are an exciting time for me. As I explore new conceptual interests, choreographic processes and personal boundaries and potentials (both physically and personally) in-depth. I feel in many and immeasurable ways that I am only just starting my journey in dance.

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MATT SHILCOCK BIO Matt Shilcock is a South Australian based dance artist and 2nd Kyu in Budo Taijutsu and specialised weaponry, with a strength in adapting mobility aids to choreographic and weaponised use. His passion extends from his own accomplishments in transitioning from a full-time wheelchair user to his current practices in dance, fitness training and martial arts. In 2009, Matt began performing professionally and has since engaged with companies across Australia, including Murmuration, No Strings Attached Theatre for Disability and Restless Dance Theatre, Kaldor Public Arts and internationally with Mass Box (China), Touch Compass (NZ), Full Radius (USA), Candoco (UK), Independence (UK), FreeWill Theatre (HK) and the Van L Dance Company (UK). Matt is a current ensemble member with Murmuration and continues to develop his independent practice with experienced professionals such as Dean Walsh, Vangelis Legakis, Leigh Warren, Janet Bridgman and others, studying the anatomy and physics of dance and applying it to his studies in holistic remedies and alchemy. More information on Dance and Being Art Project’ can be found at this regularly updated website: www.danceandbeingartpr.wixsite.com/ danceandbeingart

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THE CHOREOGRAPHY OF TOUCH -

18


JODEE MUNDY ‘Never has the power of love, kindness

I have known Heather and Michelle both

and connection to fellow human beings

personally since 1998. I worked with them

felt more important in breaking the ties of

as a tactile sign language interpreter and

social isolation’. Australian Stage1

also had the opportunity to perform with them in a creative development of a show

‘Imagined Touch’ is a unique and shared

called, ‘In the Dark’, produced by Round

experience, providing insights into living

Angle Theatre in 2009.

in a world without sight or sound by using art, theatre and sensory performance.

Michelle Stevens is an accomplished

Featuring Deafblind performers, Heather

pianist. Born blind, she played piano for

Lawson and Michelle Stevens, these artists

all of her life and worked as a piano tuner.

meet the audience and the audience meet

With constant ear infections throughout

Deafblind artists through touch. Touch

her childhood, Michelle eventually lost

is the main way that Deafblind people

her hearing in her thirties. She undertook

navigate, communicate and connect with

the mammoth task of learning tactile

others. In a society where touch is not

sign language and relearnt how to play

encouraged, Deafblind people grapple

the piano by using her memory, sense

with universal questions of isolation,

of touch and residual sounds through

access and human connection.

cochlear implant.

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Heather Lawson is an emerging artist.

and, at times, unforgiving, I knew that if

Born Deaf, she could see, and due to Ushers

we kept upholding the art and its role in

Syndrome, a genetic disorder, became blind

this project, more project partners would

in her twenties. Heather had to learn how

come forward.

to use a cane, read braille and navigate the world in new ways. A well-known advocate

At our inaugural workshop, I asked

for Deafblind Australians, she has always

Heather and Michelle, why do you want

had a keen interest in the arts.

to make a show?

In 2012, Heather and Michelle asked me

I wrote their responses down in our

to direct them in a show about being

workshop notes.

Deafblind. I think because I was fluent in tactile sign language and they trusted

’We need to make a theatre show that tells

me with the task of creating a work with

the truth about being Deafblind. We want

them. It was indeed an honour and I knew

to share our humor, grief and our profound

an important story to hold. Even with the

isolation. To highlight the importance of

knowledge of Auslan (Australian Sign

human touch and tactile communication

Language) already fluent in my own hands,

for Deafblind people‘.2

a language and culture transmitted to me

- Heather Lawson & Michelle Stevens 3rd

by my own Deaf family, little did I know

March 2013

what it would take to make this theatre show a reality. My roles in the first three

Throughout 2013, I facilitated with them

years included directing, producing,

a program with over thirty workshops

interpreting, advocating, supporting,

exploring a range of creative arts including:

collaborating and fundraising. Challenging

movement, piano, puppetry, storytelling,

(Photo Left) Heather Lawson (left) meets an audience member through touch. (Photo Right) Audiences meet one another through touch. Photography by Bryony Jackson

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sensory theatre, script development,

more than twenty collaborators. Our

concept development and interviews.

team also includes partners that spans

In 2014, we did a three-week creative

across advocacy organisations, local,

development held at Polyglot Theatre

state and federal government agencies,

and then followed by a CultureLAB

philanthropists, arts organisations and

development in 2015 where we had the

independent artists.

North Melbourne Town Hall. Our sense of team is incredibly strong. Every moment experienced in ‘Imagined

‘A lack of role models impacts not

Touch’ has been created through visceral communication collaboration with

just on disabled people in dance,

Heather and Michelle whose hands have felt thousands of hours in tactile sign

it also informs the perception of

interpreting, social haptic communication and braille. We interrogate every idea with

non-disabled people in dance.’

the ethics of how Deafblind people are being represented and consult with Heather and Michelle every step of the way. As

Little did I know what it meant for this

artists, we are in their world and culture

work to step into a large space, with

with the aim to create the most authentic

resources, expertise and incredible

bridge that we can to our audiences.

artists like Jen Hector, Madeleine Flynn and Tim Humphrey to make this work

The artistic team includes, Jen Hector

step-up. It was quite a shock for me. I

whose set, lighting and visual design

had never made a work this large of this

allowed audiences to feel that you were

scale. Especially one that comes from a

stepping into a void and grapple with how

community context. I was nervous and

lightness and darkness can disorientate

still learning how to drive this. Yet I was

you. Using 360-degree projection, large

the only one in the room who had the

screens and goggles, you feel as if you are

combination of skills required for the job.

walking into a large installation by James Turrell, where there is no image, no focus,

What began as a community cultural

just blurry edges.

development project has, after four years in the making, evolved into a

Madeleine Flynn and Tim Humphrey did

large-scale work created by a team of

composition, sound design and musical

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direction. Their work with Michelle explored

each audience member alone for five

themes of isolation, deterioration of one’s

minutes with headphones and goggles

hearing, listening through a cochlear and

where they need to take their own steps.

essentially creating an immersive world of

The connection sequence is taking the

sound. They developed a music programme

audience member by the hand and gently

where a camera picks up the light in the

reassuring them they are safe and guiding

room through a light meter and translates

them to a seat. The terror sequence is

lightness and darkness into sound. Flynn’s

taking them by the hand and running

musical direction occurred with preparing

that person around the room. Friendship

Michelle for her concert piano pieces in

is having audience members meet one

the finale.

another through touch by feeling one another’s face and exploring their own way of communicating.

We have four tactile interpreters, additional tactile guides, a social haptic consultant, technical manager, two support workers.

‘The only way out is through.’

They are managed by my producer and co–

- Helen Keller, Deafblind political activist

ceo Stacey Baldwin and myself. As director, I felt that the best way to ‘I listened with my fingertips’

communicate Heather and Michelle’s

- Audience Member, feedback for a

subjective experiences was by using

showing in 2014

the senses of the audience. Using light, sound and touch, our team created a

Touch is an incredibly profound sense.

metaphorical journey of Heather and

You use every muscle, every pore,

Michelle’s sensory deterioration, isolation,

every inch of flesh to navigate your

longing for connection and the relief when

way and to communicate. In ‘Imagined

someone puts out their hand.

Touch’, Heather and Michelle’s stories of becoming Deafblind led to a sense of isolation that no one could ever

‘Beautifully disorientating; Imagined Touch

truly fathom. This isolation, along with

is an amazing insight to the world of the

memories of connection, terror and

other and ourselves.’

friendship, has been distilled into a touch

- Bruce Gladwin, Artistic Director, Back to

choreographic sequence designed for

Back Theatre(feedback from CultureLAB

every audience member to experience.

work in progress showing 2015)

The isolation sequence is literally leaving

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Heather Lawson’s movement finale. Photography by Bryony Jackson

Wearing goggles and headphones that

moments of Heather and Michelle’s

alter and restrict light and sound; through

experiences. Creating ‘vignettes’ or

intensified touch and tactile commun-

‘subjective moments’ for the audience,

ication, the audience experiences the

a range of experiences from intense

artists’ stories in a profoundly different

isolation to tactile connection, shows

sensory environment and literally meet

the scope of our need as humans to be

Heather and Michelle through an imagined

social creatures. Indeed, this is unique

touch of the senses.

and personal for each person who goes through the show. With these sequences,

One by one and step by step, audiences

Heather, Michelle and the tactile guides

are led into the unknown. At times,

gauge every individual audience member

audience members are left alone, signed

and their communication mode in order

onto their hands, given directions with

to take them a little step beyond what

drawing patterns on their backs, danced

they know.

with, held, spun around and run around the room. This combination of touch

Calling this section the ’go through‘, when

choreography sequences transmits

the audience wears headphones and

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goggles and enters an unseen space. One reviewer, Myronny (2016), describes

‘I am deliberating making my

his experiences:

disability part of the movement,

‘I feel an immediate sense of anxiety as

not because I want to make a

my most reliant forms of communication and being connected to others have

statement about disability, but

been removed. I am aware of movement happening around me, but I have no idea

because it is part of my body and

what. I keep reminding myself that I am in a show and am completely safe, and after

therefore part of my dancing.’

what seems like an eternity of waiting (which in reality would have been minutes – I think), a hand takes hold of mine and

Then she squeezed my hand and could feel

leads me away from the comfort of my seat.

her being led away. I was no longer a ‘we’. I walk with confidence and trust in the

Then a stranger’s hand took mine. I had

stranger but the second they release me,

immediate and complete trust in that hand.

I stop dead in my tracks. Suddenly, my

I still don’t know who it was. Or who any of

footsteps are much slower and smaller.

the hands and arms and bodies I felt were,

My hands are outstretched in front of me

but one woman drew a smiley face on my

as I come into contact with numerous

hand and I’m sure we both laughed loudly

other audience members. We touch faces,

because it was finally something we

we hold hands, I feel a wedding ring on

could understand.’

one person, and another has large, coarse

- Aussie Theatre4

hands. I am creating stories for these people I know very little about. There is a

My drive in the choreography was to

sense of timelessness while this is happ-

create experiences that were subjective

ening and it feels like I am in another world.’

and internalised; to allow for accidental

- My About Town3

meetings even though you didn’t know who was touching you. Where you felt

Another reviewer, Peard, A (2016) describes:

out of control, isolated and yearned for human connection. When once you met

‘Unexpectedly scary, especially as we were

someone through touch, you realised that

not sure what was happening around us.

in fact there is a whole language, an entire

24


culture, unknown to most of us that can

expertise in the art of touch, connection

be tapped in by all. The way the works is

and trust. The language of touch as they

structured, that, as well as Heather and

described to us, demonstrates that race,

Michelle, there are seven tactile guides

religion, ability, gender and color are

who remain unseen in this entire sequence.

simply irrelevant when all that matters is

Kind of like a football team, everyone

the kind hand being offered. This struck

has specific position. We have forwards,

me as an incredibly profound thing that

centres, backs and wing guides who give

Heather and Michelle as Deafblind

each audience member a touch sequence

people can teach.

and then pass that audience member to next tactile guide for a different sequence.

We hope this work of art awakens, not only

It’s like a rite of passage.

the audience’s senses, but also ignites the power that lies in their head, heart and

‘‘Imagined Touch’ challenges and invites

hands to connect with others.

us to engage the work in unexpected ways. It alters our perceptions about how

‘Imagined Touch’ premiered at Arts House

to experience theatre but also how we

in September 2016 and will be having its

communicate with each other.’

second presentation at Carriageworks as

- My About Town5

part of the Sydney Festival program in 2017.

Our journey making this work challenged our team to ask many questions of Heather

Article Cover Image of Heather Lawson (left) and

and Michelle. Is touch the most important

Michelle Stevens (right) in conversation. Photography by

sense? How do Heather and Michelle as

Bryony Jackson

Deafblind artists connect to the audience at all times? How can we reframe disability

1

as an opportunity to share untapped

Deafblind Live Art Experience | Jodee Mundy

expertise on human potential?

Collaborations.’ Australian Stage. <http://www.

Johnson, S. 8 Sept 2016, ‘Imagined Touch: The

australianstage.com.au/201609087963/reviews/

Now in the 21st century, these contem-

melbourne/imagined-touch-the-deafblind-live-

porary Deafblind artists are touching and

art-experience-%7C-jodee-mundy-collaborations.

showing audiences the way through an

html>.

imagined touch. In a world bombarded with visual images and individualism, Heather and Michelle offer audiences

25


Mundy, J. 2013 agreed aim of our work. Workshop

2

notes, Jodee Mundy interviews Heather Lawson and Michelle Stevens

Myron, M. 9 Sep 2016, ‘Imagined Touch review.’

3

My About Town. <http://www.myronmy. me/2016/09/imagined-touch-review.html?m=1>.

Peard, A-M. 8 Sept 2016, ‘Arts House: Imagined

4

Touch.’ Aussie Theatre. <http://aussietheatre.com. au/reviews/arts-house-imagined-touch>.

Myron, M. 9 Sep 2016.

5

26


JoDEE MUNDY BIO Jodee Mundy Collaborations is an independent creative producing company. Formed in 2012, it responses to with the multiple collaborations and partnerships established and in order to continuing to develop work with artists, diverse communities, organisations and funders. Artistic Director Jodee Mundy and Producer Stacey Baldwin are committed to producing high quality theatre works, public events, installations and artistic interventions, bringing together diverse cross sections of the community who may not regularly encounter one another. Jodee’s artistic aim is for audiences to witness works that challenge and inspire them to acknowledge the value of live performance, communities and the ability of art to redefine and skew the notions of inclusiveness. Her work ultimately points to a future ‘beyond inclusion’, where diversity is inherently valuable to the art. Rather than a point of difference, it is considered a point of commonality. Works include: Imagined Touch the deafblind live art experience, The Carers Project: A Sanctuary in the city and her next work in development, Personal. www.jodeemundy.com

27


OFF THE RECORD -

28


Danielle MICICH Force Majeure in partnership with Dance

learning how to work with a new group

Integrated Australia.

of people that have different skills, needs

Commissioned by Carriageworks for

and abilities.

New Normal National Arts and Disability Strategy, August 2016.

What I learned that day were lessons I have kept with me ever since; I can never

One of my first professional engagements

be prepared enough, I should never assume

as a graduate was to lead a movement

anything, that I never have enough time

workshop for people with disability. Not

and that it’s good to leave my ego at the

something I had any experience with at the

door. These were more lessons for life

time, I recall how nervous I was preparing

perhaps, but they have translated well

and not feeling confident that I had the

into my work ethics.

skills to deliver. I was finding it difficult to plan as I had not been informed about

Twenty years on and now as Co-Director

room dynamics, the etiquette or what the

of ‘Off The Record’ with Philip Channells1,

needs might be. So, I went in with some

I found myself reflecting again on the

loose concepts for generating movement

process of making a work with artists

and kept an open mind, knowing it might

with disability. As resident company of

be a disaster, which to my own surprise

Carriageworks, ‘Off The Record’ was

it wasn’t. It was a beautiful exchange,

commission by them as a part of their

29


New Normal strategy. It offered me the

text and movement. As Artistic Director

opportunity to open my process and

of Dance Integrated Australia and a dance

offers a range of extremely talented

practitioner, Philip brought a wealth of

group of artists working together for

experience working in integrated practice

the first time on a main-stage platform

with artists with and without disabilities.

to showcase their stories. I was also very interested in exploring what that

Philip Channells is the founder and Creative

someone with a disability had to say

Director of Dance Integrated Australia and is

about privacy and Philip was the conduit

an Ambassador to the Bundanon Trust Artist

to this community. Having Co-Directors

in Residence program. His knowledge, skills

with two different sets of expertise was

and experience of working in dance and the

essential to making a successful piece

disability sectors in Australia and abroad

of dance theatre. I brought in, as Force

during the past 15 years has gained him

Majeureâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Artistic Director, knowledge

credibility as Australiaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s leading disability-

of directing text-based dance theatre

inclusive dance practitioner.

using the devising process, which is using collaboration with performers to generate

Company on chairs Left to Right is Anna Coombes, Alex Jones, Marnie Palomares, Jana Castillo, Gerard Oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Dwyer with Zoe Coombs Marr standing. Photograph by Zan Wimberley

30


‘if we as a company of makers don’t challenge ourselves and take risks in what we make, then we shouldn’t expect our audience to take risks in what they see.’ -

31


The first pressing question for Philip and

conversation around personal information

I was whether everyone in the cast would

and the frustrations one has at times com-

need to identify with having a disability.

municating with a disability, something

We postponed answering this until we

that Philip could navigate very well with

had worked with artists in the audition

the cast being someone who identifies

workshop who were invited artists from

having a disability himself. In this early

a general call out, and had a sense of

stage, there was little directing from us

what the work might be. Because of the

and more about information gathering. So,

large amount of applications we received

our attention was on what the cast had and

and the amount of time we allocated

wanted to say.

for the development the answer we eventually came to was that as long as

After this phase, my questions were about

we had an integrated approach to making

the show’s structure; how do we bring

the work which is inclusive of any artist

these stories together and what story do

and they were open and happy to share

we want to tell collectively? By working

personal stories, then they could be any

with universal themes such as love, loss,

artist, with or without disability. Our

fear, manipulation and honesty, Philip

cast of five performers Jana Castillo,

and I reframed the specifics of a personal

Alex Jones, Gerard O’Dwyer, Marnie

story and contextualised them in the

Palomares and Neil Phipps – two dancers

bigger picture in order to form a cohesive

and three actors – were selected from

work. The only factor we uncovered

a large pool of professional artists who

which united everyone’s experience

identified as living with a disability or

was that they all shared ‘off the record’

came from integrated practice. A mix

moments, moments the artists normally

of strong personalities and abilities that

would keep private. For example, like the

complemented each other and gave Philip

time Jana as a child showed her friend

and I an eclectic pallet to draw from.

how her Barbies have sex. We looked to offer the performers space to share and

The first part of the creative process

express these moments.

was interviewing the cast in a group setting. Philip and I took turns leading

Philip and I, with the help of Text

question so the whole company could

Dramaturg, Zoe Coombs Marr, used this

listen and respond to individual stories.

information to form the script. Zoe is a

It was about creating an open safe space

brilliant performer/writer and comedian.

to share. Philip and I were focusing the

We asked her to take what were very

32


Inside a car text is on wall while Gerard Oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Dwyer stands with hands on his ears. Photograph by Zan Wimberley

heavy subject matters and redirect the

The construction of movement was no

language and storytelling to make it

different from any other Force Majeure

light-hearted. We wanted to celebrate

work. I used our trademark devising

our stories and find a way to understand

process where performers are given

them from a different point of view.

specific instructions. Such as, find several

We continually made changes to the

ways to create difference between you

script throughout the rehearsals as the

and another body. We would also generate

performers became confident in sharing.

movement based on their writings and

The cast also wanted to make sure that

stories and key words to improvise a mo-

their personal points of view were very

vement response. What I try to achieve

clear to the audience. Philip, Zoe and I

through improvising is natural ease to the

made sure they had the authorship of

body, something I look for in any performer

the work. This meant we needed their

regardless of dance ability.

permission to use their stories. Ultimately, our goal was to find interesting ways

Philip, Zoe and I played with using humour

to stage these narratives using their

by misinterpreting and reinterpreting their

physicality mixed with our experience of

stories. For example, we had a performer

producing new work.

with no Auslan experience attempt to interpret what is being signed. We wanted

33


to give the deaf audience one story and

of the script. The decision to include the

our hearing audience another in order to

Auslan interpreter, Neil Phipps, as one of

demonstrate that there are differences in

the performers meant we needed to engage

the way we understand something we see.

an Auslan Consultant, Della Goswell. She

We found ways to show the confusion and

made sure that the Auslan created inside

frustrations that our cast experience in their

the work was being translated clearly for

daily lives with their identities. For instance,

our deaf audience. Additionally, TV screens

we created movement duets that used mixed

hung as a part of the very minimal set of a

abilities, a dancer moving with an actor. We

large black tower and a long black ramp to

also discussed how the performers present

continue feeding the audience both a visual

themselves to the world around them.

element and the performers’ dialogue when Auslan wasn’t being signed.

Developing this content stirred up emotions and each morning before rehearsals we

Finding a way of challenging perception

began with a session to ‘check-in’ with each

and at the same time guides one to think

other. We came together as a company, cast

about the bigger picture is what I call the

and creatives to discuss any thoughts, ideas

‘sweet spot’. After finishing the season, one

or issues that stemmed from the previous

performer told me that doing this project

day because the information the performers

was one of the worst things they had ever

were sharing was sometimes very personal

done and one of the best things they had

and sensitive.

ever done because of sharing something extremely personal and having such a

The other massive consideration was the

positive response which started dialogues

audience and ensuring the work would be

around behavior not often discussed. If we

accessible for deaf and visually impaired

as a company of makers don’t challenge

patrons. We achieved this by embedding

ourselves and take risks in what we make,

access into the design of the production

then we shouldn’t expect our audience to

such as, an Auslan interpreter, projected

take risks in what they see. After twenty

subtitles on a wall and audio describing

years as a maker and defining my own

throughout the show. We brought in the

process of dance theatre, I am reminded

expertise of an Audio Describer, Emma

again, that if an idea is not working it’s

Bedford, to ensure any projected words

probably because I’m not communicating

and captioning were clear for the visually

it properly. So change tact and try again.

impaired. This meant that we had to us a

Months later when I bumped into people

particular font, colour and an edited version

in the Carriageworks foyer at other shows

34


and hear audience members still talking

JANA:

about Off The Record, I thought we have

If I was in America, I’d have Tourettes, but in

achieved what we set out to do – we have

Australia: Crazy.

emotionally connected.

If I was in America, I’d maybe also have Lyme disease, which is this disease you get from

The lessons I learned long ago and

Ticks, like bush ticks, not tic tics, and Lyme

continue to apply, e.g. keeping an open

disease can cause neurological problems,

mind when working with a new group of

like these, but we also don’t have Lyme

people and leaving my ego at the door,

disease in Australia.

supported the process of this work.

So, no. These tics, which aren’t tics, are not

Because of my openness, I was able to

from a tick. In Australia.

learn and experience from these artist

They’re just for attention.

different ways of being, living and creating.

I know what you’re thinking. “For attention,

Exploring what inspires them, what

what?!?! Whay?!” Seems crazy, right?!

drives them and what keeps them going

But I am crazy. I mean, I don’t feel like I’m

as an artist today also feeds me moving

crazy, but it’s official.

forward with new Force Majeure works. It is very possible that future works would

It’s on record.

include artists with disability regardless of the topic.

Here are examples of text spoken during ‘Welcome to Off the Record’: GERARD: According to my mind I don’t go out on nights when I have work the next day I don’t smoke I don’t do drugs I don’t lie I don’t care what people think I don’t judge people and I don’t stray from my plans

35


Here is an example of the narration track for

Article Cover Image of Alex Jones and Jana

the blind and visually impaired during the

Castillo facing each with curled fingers in front

‘Welcome to Off the Record’ performance:

of their faces. Photograph by Zan Wimberley

We are in track 8 on a long, low seating bank made up of five rows. The stage is 10m deep by 23m wide, two car lengths by the width of your average blue whale. The space is uncluttered with a black floor. Above us, there is an 8m high ceiling. Between it and us are the lights and steel truss. There is no rear curtain just a bare concrete wall. To our right, at a 45 degree angle is a 5m long, black wooden ramp, as wide as a small car. At it’s highest point it stops suddenly, onstage. The drop is a meter. To our left is an angled, 3m black box. The front left corner is closest. Directly in front of this tower at head height are 5 mediumsized flat screen TV’s, hung horizontally in a row. These are to be used for captioning - a screen for each performer’s spoken text. Atop the box; a platform protruding like a balcony. From this vantage point an Auslan interpreter signs. The Auslan interpreter is interpreting what I am saying - which doesn’t really make a lot of sense. If you can see him - you don’t need me

36


Danielle Micich BIO Danielle Micich is a choreographer, director, performer and Artistic Director of Force Majeure. Graduating from Victorian College of the Arts, she relocated to Perth as a company dancer for 2 Dance Plus and then appointed Artistic Director of STEPS Youth Dance Company for four years. Danielle performed in Night Train Productions’ Wish winning a West Australian Dance Award for Outstanding Female Performer and Blue Room Theatre Awards for Best Individual Performance and Members Choice. Danielle was Assistant Director on Force Majeure and Belvoir’s co-production Food, choreographed Black Swan Theatre Company’s Flood and Barking Gecko Theatre Company’s Driving Into Walls which was nominated for a 2013 Helpmann Award, won the Equity Guild Award and later toured to Sydney Opera House. www.forcemajeure.com.au

37


‘LOST IN GREY’ -AND WHAT INSPIRED IT

38


CHANG CHUNG-AN In 2014, there was an unprecedented and

a similar condition. I have a few friends

bloody attack on the MRT (Mass Rapid

who appear to have signs of depression.

Transit) in Taipei when 21-year-old Tzeng

However, I see that neither their family

Jai, armed with a fruit knife, left 4 dead

nor the Taiwan health care system pays

and 21 injured. This incident shocked

attention to them. In Taiwan, we do not

the whole of Taiwan and raised serious

have time for depression. We are just told

concerns surrounding mental health

by family, friends and society to get on

issues in our society. By all accounts,

with life.

Tzeng Jai appeared â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;normalâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; up until the time of the attack. I began to wonder if

Taiwanese frequently worry about

there were signs that were simply ignored.

being different from others. They fear

Did he have mental illness as a child? Or

being teased, bullied and/or becoming

did the pressures of our society push him

marginalised. Parents openly direct their

to a breaking point?

children away from the disabled and prevent them from having any contact

Taiwan is a high-pressure society and

with people who act unusual. They are

demands its citizens to excel in the

afraid that the children might be harmed.

education system and job market. Tzeng

Educating children to care for those

Jaiâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s case was extreme but I started to

with difficulties is just not a part of the

realise that many people are possibly in

Taiwanese psyche. And so, negative

39


‘The characters in my choreography are a mix of many people’s experiences and thoughts.’ treatment and bullying does not seem

and return to my home town in Pingtung.

quite so wrong in our society.

Taipei, in the north of Taiwan, has the majority of resources and performance

Help and support is more readily

opportunities. It is also where most of the

available to the physically disabled but

experience and contacts I would need

this is because they are often more

to become well-known in dance. In the

’visible.’ Mental disorders, on the other

south of Taiwan, there are much fewer

hand, are frequently invisible and a

resources for dance as an art form. And

taboo subject to discuss even within the

so, I stopped dancing.

family context. Because of this, it is often not recognised until much too late. The

The setback was a shock. As my dream of

government health care system needs

achieving a high level of training in dance

to be much more vigilant about the

was gone, my life became disordered.

early stages of mental disorders. Early

Furthermore, to the rest of the world

diagnosis and treatment would prevent

around me, I am a disabled person. People

many tragic suicides and murders.

looked at me differently. A shadow grew inside me and I began to wonder, how

The choreographer’s situation in

was I going to continue with my life as

relationship of the work’s content.

a disabled person? Fortunately, and by

At the age of 18, I lost the vision in my

chance, I met a teacher who taught me

right eye due to an illness, and therefore,

as a child. Mrs. Huang encouraged and

my dream of being a professional dancer.

helped me return to the dance world

I had to leave my dance training in Taipei

where I started to choreograph.

40


Because of my experiences, I am very

understand why the patients were there

aware of the different ways in which

and how they felt about being in a mental

people look at and treat those with

illness ward.

physical and/or mental disabilities. I want to attract the public’s attention

Initially, I spoke with the manager of the

and make people care about them as I

centre to explain my research and work.

do. Therefore, there is a lot about social

With an understanding of what I was

issues and society’s marginalisation of

looking to achieve, he worked with us to

certain people in my choreography.

make sure we operated within patient

The MRT attack in 2014 really brought

confidentiality laws and facilitated

mental illness to the forefront of my mind

meetings with healthcare providers

and triggered the motivation for ‘Lost in

and patients.

Grey’. The dance is an expression of my thoughts about human care and anti-

At first, my aim was that the dancers

social conditions caused by a society full

and I would conduct movement

of stress. Unresolved problems hidden

workshops and interactions with

beneath society (including damaging

patients. However, we were unable to

and destroying personal and public

pursue this inquiry as the healthcare

property, robbery, self-harm, suicide and

providers were concerned that intense

murder) places people and the whole

exercise might have negative impacts

society in danger of collapse. I hope the

on the patients’ moods. Instead, we

choreography will raise awareness of

interviewed healthcare providers about

these problems.

their professional experiences in regards to anonymous patients. Additionally,

How did the dancers get into character?

with over-site of healthcare providers,

The dancers and I did not have much

we spoke with several patients who were

knowledge about mental disorders. In

well along in the recovery process and

Taiwan, most people with severe mental

preparing to be discharged. We asked

illnesses are isolated from society for

open-ended questions about the reasons

treatment, medication and rehabilitation.

they came to the rehabilitation centre,

Therefore, we visited several times a

course of recovery and expectations

mental rehabilitation centre in Kaohsiung

about being discharged. A few patients

during the development process. It was

said that they were forced to go to the

important for the dancers and I to be in

hospital by their family. Others realised

that environment. For us to ‘feel’ it, to

that they needed treatment and went

41


in voluntarily. They were all looking

pressures of adulthood

forward to recovering and resuming a

- Calm

normal life and returning to their family

- Ruthless

and communities.

- Antisocial - Recovering but crazy and beyond control

During these conversations, we observed patients’ behaviours, body language and

The purpose of the works is to present

movement. We noted some patients had

different mental states and their

recognizable habits which were often

relationships. Since at different moments

repetitive actions, e.g. scratching the

one or several of these mental states will

top of the head, scratching arms, rolling

show up at the same time in a person, I

eyes, grabbing fingers with their other

choreographed duets and group dances

hand, and disengaging when attempting

to represent these shifts. I constantly

a conversation. Afterwards, the dancers

focused on the changing struggles of the

came together to share verbally and

patient: the conflict, comprehension and

through improvisation exercises what they

incorporation of the patient’s numerous

saw during these interactions. It is this

personalities. For example, the recovering

material which I used to create the dance.

character struggles with her actions and emotions. Sometimes she acts normal.

Character Roles in the Choreography

But other times, her actions are out of

The characters in my choreography are

control, e.g. she repeats a movement,

a mix of many people’s experiences and

like scratching herself or saying

thoughts. They also include my own

contradictory thoughts. In another

perspective, of course. ‘Lost in Grey’

scene, the calm character works to

contains 6 performers. One is the patient

hold back the recovering character from

and the other five each represent a state

walking to the patient. The recovering

of mind and emotion that the patient goes

character is out of control and the calm

through. For the work to have the most

character is calming down her anxiety.

impact, I presented the five emotions or

The work ends with the calm character

states in ways the audiences can quickly

stabilizing the other characters and the

identify and understand.

patient from the group.

- Patient

I break the fourth wall as another

- Innocence and happiness of youth

choreographic way to impact the

before being overcome with the

audience. Before the performance

42


Yi - Jen Juan leaning over with both fists in front of face. Photograph by Ren-Haur Liu

begins, the lead dancer (the patient) sits

Edinburgh Festival Fringe, we met an

among the audience. She enters the stage

audience member who had previously had

when the dance begins and returns to her

a mental disorder. After the performance

seat when the show finishes. Whether the

finished, she could not detach from it

patientâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s final action holds the meaning

for a couple of minutes. She sat there

of healing or death, we leave to the

with tears and shared her story with

imagination of the audiences. I wanted to

us. She told us that the characters in

inspire the audience to think that patients

the work reminded her of what she had

with mental disorders can appear ordinary

been through and the piece gave her

and mental illness could be anywhere and

encouragement that it was possible to

affect anyone.

face such problems and recover. We continue to tour the work, including at the

Reaction and Impact

international fringe festival in London and

As an emerging dance group, and due

concerts scheduled this year in Taiwan.

to budget constraints, we have not

During our performances in Taiwan

performed for the healthcare providers

several informal discussions will be held

and patients in the mental rehabilitation

by the Resident Island Dance theatre at

centre. However, we plan to go back in

different venues. We are participating

May for further research and continue

and fostering a movement in Taiwan in

our work to bring social awareness. I

which the government, academia and

already see impact on the work. At the

healthcare has paid more attention to

43


this increasing and important social issue. Our future projects with the government and education specialists will lead to matters improving.

Article Cover Image Shih-Yun Fang and Jing-Yin Wong enbrace while Li-Chuan Yeh looks on from begind. Photograph by Ren-Haur Liu

44


Chang ChunG-An Bio Chang Chung-an, an award-winning choreographer, established Resident Island Dance Theatre (RIDT) in 2011. In high school, he began to lose site in his right eye. Because of this sight impairment, Chang dropped out of university and returned to his home town, Pingtung. Despite Pingtung’s limited art resources, Chang continued to dance. He works to combine contemporary choreography with ideas about human care. Through powerful and dynamic body movements and experimenting with any possible dance styles, Chang and RIDT give rise and expression to social issues. They lead audiences to experience different perspectives of life. The company’s debut piece, ‘Sun with a Corner Missing’, was nominated for a Golden Dance Award. Created in 2102, ‘Ear Language’ won first prize in the cross-area dance competition held by the Cultural Affairs Department of Pingtung. Other productions include ‘Glass House’ (2013), ‘Workplace Ecology’ (2014) and ‘Lost in Grey’ (2016). www.stepoutarts.co.uk

45


DANCE DIARIES WOODVILLE

46


LINDA LUKE Everybody’s body is unique. Everybody’s

and to create DANCE DIARIES:

body is poetic. We all have the capacity to

CAMPBELLTOWN (2010). Subsequently,

move to a personal song that is within us.

I have made two more DANCE DIARIES films with different communities.

I conceived of DANCE DIARIES several years ago. It is a series of dance and film

Powerhouse Youth Theatre (PYT) invited

making projects engaging with people

me to develop a DANCE DIARIES project

who are marginalized by Australian

in partnership with Woodville Alliance.

society. I ask participants to reflect

Together we realised a strategy to create

loosely on notions of their experience

a series of dance projects working with

of home, whether home is a source of

a number of people who attend the

comfort, an unknown place, somewhere

Woodville centre. Woodville Alliance is

far away or a metaphor (rather than an

a not for profit organisation who provide

actual place). This area of exploration

support for people who have mental

grew out of a project in 2009 where I

health challenges, are homeless or are

explored teenage homelessness, which

living with disabilities. After several

was a performative investigation of my

meetings with Woodville’s Manager, Maria

own history of being homeless as a young

Haneo - who questioned me rigorously

teen. This work then developed into

about my dance practice and vision for

working with teenagers in Campbelltown

the projects – she approached a number

47


‘Over time, the dance emerges–like a photographic paper being dipped in solution.’ -

48


of her clients whom she thought would

called BodyWeather. BodyWeather,

benefit. The group selected were people

originally developed in Japan during the

living with learning difficulties. I am new

1980s, is an interweaving of eastern and

at collaborating with people who live with

western dance practices. Its lineage draws

disabilities. I have no special expertise in

from Butoh, German expressionism, and

this field. This purpose of this article is

European contemporary performance.

simply to share some of the processes with

Essentially, it’s an improvisational dance

and by this particular ensemble of people.

practice, encompassing a myriad of modalities and frameworks that direct and

First, in 2015, I facilitated the project

train the body and imagination to move

Being Moved, a beautiful photographic

and perceive in an atypical manner. It’s

book exploring movement and dance

not so interested in form, but rather, it is

and collaborating with performance

interested in ‘being’.

photographer Heidrun Löhr. The outcome was a book launch, a photographic

BodyWeather asks us to radically

exhibition and a short public performance

reconsider our relationship to our body (as

on International Day of Disability. In 2016,

well as the external environment). There

we have been developing the DANCE

is an underlying tradition in the practice

DIARIES film. In 2017, we will run a

that upholds the so-called ‘imperfect’

series of dance and performance making

body, or bodies that are marginalized by

workshops which may lead to a public

society. It also explores bodies that are

performance in 2018. The overall purpose

non-human such as animal and plant or

of the project is to use each process to

perceiving movement on a molecular

build dance skills and confidence, with

scale. Philosophically, BodyWeather sees

the aim to develop a public performance,

our bodies as unique ecosystems that

if this is what this group wishes to do - a

move in their own extraordinary ways.

question yet to be answered.

When I dance, my interest lies in undoing what I think I ‘know’ about my body in

My work over the last 20 years has

order to find out what lies beneath my in-

concentrated on performance, dance,

culturated thinking patterns and beliefs.

mentoring and teaching. I engage with professional and emerging dancers and

For DANCE DIARIES: WOODVILLE I’ve

actors, and with people from various

had the pleasure of collaborating with

communities. My practice lies not in

Martin Fox (co-director / video artist) and

western dance but in a methodology

Michael Toisuta (composer) and working

49


with with six emerging performers - Suzan

There were times for spatial and physical

Doumat, Farangis Nawroozi, Joanne

challenges, such as learning and remem-

Pang, Ragda Rima, Karoleen Shalaimon

bering new dance sequences or floor

and Allen Zhu. We have been meeting

patterns. At Suzan’s request, every session

regularly in the PYT studio throughout

we did solo improvised dancing, with

November and December. On the first

everyone else watching. The watching is

day in the studio, we asked each of the

important. For any process, I ask people

ensemble what they thought about when

to watch each other in order to learn

thinking about home. They weren’t too

from each other and to realize they are

keen to speak - it just isn’t their primary

in this together, as an ensemble. As a

mode of communication. Therefore,

choreographer, I want to watch each

drawing from the Being Moved project

person over and over and notice the dance

and how well everyone connected with

that is already inherent in each individual’s

the materials we used, we made a series

body and spirit. Such as Allen’s complex,

of miniature ‘houses’. We also brought

unpredictable, improvised movement

along squares of fake grass in order to

sequences which draw from hip hop and

get ‘in touch’ with something outside of

street culture dance. Or Suzan’s sense

ourselves, something to form a relation

of flow and extension through her whole

to. Martin and I also chose these objects

body and tendency to strong diagonal lines

to give us some aesthetic choices in

in space. Or Joanne’s fast and syncopated

terms of filming. The grass mats could

footwork. Or Farangis’ ‘Middle Eastern’

be used in various configurations that

undulating flow through her arms and

gave us a number of possible spatial

hands. Or how all of them sat so beautifully

choreographies.

poised in crossed legged position. Using a broad range of music, I noticed how

As the choreographer on the project, the

the music affected how each person

most important things I value in a process,

moved and also the mood in the room.

are Trust, Respect and Time and the

For example, the juxtaposition when, one

‘dance moves’ are secondary to that. In

time, Karoleen danced fast disco moves to

order to draw out the best in a performer,

Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.

I feel I need to deeply consider how I am constructing time and space for someone to

I’m interested in dissolving borders in

feel free to be creative – that they have the

a process, segueing between warm

right to be exactly who they are.

ups, structured scores and technical details, improvisation, playing, eating,

50


(Left to right) Ragda Rima, Suzan Doumit, Farangis Nawroozi, Joanne Pang, Karolen Shlaimon in grass skirts up to their armpits. Photograph by Linda Luke

watching film rushes together, resting

important to introduce ourselves, and for

and performing task based work, like

the families to see their relative inside a

concentrating on the movements of folding

process and project.

clothes or watering a plant. Over time, the dance emerges – like a photographic paper

Each visit gave Martin and myself further

being dipped in solution. You slowly and

insights into getting to know the performers

gently agitate the environment and – over

as well. For example, the whole time we

time – the images emerge. The artwork (i.e.

knew Farangis, we thought she could not

the film) is the making of what happens.

speak beyond saying yes and no. Then we realized that she converses quite a lot at

DANCE DIARIES: WOODVILLE included

home in her first language (her family is

inviting family members to be filmed at

Persian). Or when we went to Suzan’s house,

their house, whereby the family member

we realized how independent she was. She

was filmed watching their loved one/ the

took charge of the situation by helping with

dancer, perform a short piece for them.

setting up camera equipment and organizing

Four of six families agreed to be filmed.

the space. Suzan told her 2 sisters not to

Martin and I felt it was an integral part of

help, but to watch. After this shoot with her

the film, given the overarching theme was

family, she was more pro-active in the studio,

one about home. But we also felt it was

which signified to us a growing confidence

51


and ownership of the project as being hers

captured and it is in this process we will

(i.e. as opposed to being a ‘participant’).

find a form for it. We don’t want this film to be a ‘pretty’ dance film but to somehow

Over the 2 months, the performers

convey something of the process and not

emerged from an incredibly quiet non-

to hide it. The film will be the result of

speaking group to becoming more vocal,

what happened.

playful, free in their movement and expressive. This was seen in the dance

While working with any ensemble, I apply

phrases that were developed to allow

the same principles, working with any

space for one’s own timing and give each

ensemble, although each the process is

a license to their own poetic expression.

modified according to certain conditions

For example, Joanne performed a dance

and where participants are at in their

phrase for camera and in her timing,

development. My aim is to engender

paused, looked long and deep into the

a sense of agency or ownership with

camera and then folded over out of view.

any individual I engage with - whether I’m coaching emerging dancers, young

By the end of the process, I felt we were

actors at the University of Wollongong or

just discovering each other. This was in one

working with senior community members

sense frustrating, but it’s also promising as

– so that each person can hopefully realize

we are all planning to work together in 2017.

that their expression is just as valuable as

I think we are now ready to explore more

anyone else’s. From my experience, a great

specific exercises in the BodyWeather ‘tool-

deal about becoming an artist is first, and

kit’ and it will be good to run workshops

foremost, about perceiving yourself as an

where there is no expected outcome, such

artist and this takes time.

as the book or film. There seems to be a genuine curiosity for our explorations so far and by the end of the process, the

Article Cover Image is Allen Zhu in the

ensemble had expressed their desire to

developement stages of DANCE DIARIES:

work together next year.

WOODVILLE. Photograph by Linda Luke

All the footage is now gathered in a 3.5 inch hard-drive box and Martin and I head into the edit suite in January. The two of us are in discussion about how we will saturate ourselves with all the footage we

52


LiNDA LUKE BIO Linda has been a dancer and performance maker for the past 20 years. Her work aims to excavate the subtle undercurrents we experience in relationship to self, each other and the external environment. Since 2004, Linda has been a core ensemble member with Sydney based dance company De Quincey Co. Linda most recently performed in Victoria Hunt’s ‘Tangi Wai,’ Performance Space, 2015. Linda has created several solo performances including ‘Still Point Turning’ that premiered at Melbourne Festival (2014). Linda currently teaches movement and directs productions for the BA Performance degree at Wollongong University. Linda is an Associate Artist of ReadyMade Works, a studio space dedicated to independent dance makers in Sydney. www.lindaluke.com.au

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The Place of the Dancer with a Disability in the Contemporary Dance World -

54


JOSHUA PETHER Originally presented at Accessible Artsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;

certain level of knowledge and skill that

Arts Activated 2016 - Pathways to Practice

previously had been denied to artists with disabilities because of a body hierarchy

The place of the dancer with a disability

existing within these structures. The body

in the Contemporary dance world

hierarchy referring to the dominant trait

became a research topic for me in

of able bodiedness in both the skills and

2012 while studying at WAAPA (West

technique learnt during those formative

Australian Academy of Performing Arts).

years of training that equip dancers with

My perspective on contemporary dance

the necessary tools to achieve levels

was at most, naĂŻve and my knowledge of

of flexibility, strength and consistent

dance, and indeed, disability was limited.

precision. Therefore, by acquiring this

However in the back of my mind I knew

knowledge both groups can exist on a

there was something missing even within

level playing field.

the scope of my limited understanding. This conclusion seemed to me to be My initial exploration into the literature

adept at the time due to the research

lead me to a conclusion that artists

clearly indicating a lack of educational

with disabilities should be accepted

opportunities for dancers with disabilities.

into our traditional dance institutions.

However, four years on I ask, why would

As a result of this, there can exist a

the opportunity to attend a traditional

55


Joshua’s spine and scars marked with ink at Bundanon during Critical Path’s Residency Program Body as Material. Photograph by Julie Vulcan

dance institution be of value to someone

does exits, and as such, the culture of

with a disability when frequently we have

disability, or my body, is not favoured in

been denied the right to do so?

the long term. My creativity is limited to the aesthetic of able bodiness and both the negative and positive aspects of this notion.

From a human rights perspective, the idea of inclusion is paramount. Society must change in order to accommodate people

As an artist that struggles within my own

with disabilities. But the question is, whose

conventional dance training upbringing

definition of inclusion is being applied? Is

where I learnt ballet, jazz, contemporary

it perhaps the pursuit of acceptance into

(all styles considered essential in dance),

the ‘traditional’ dance structures that limits

as well as an innate rebellion against the

the creative voice in the first place? And

status quo, I find this realization to be of a

where, and does there exist, the artistic

shock. The knowledge of this means that

voice and autonomy of the individual? The

my concept of my dancerly body is not

fundamental notion behind these questions

my own, but instead, a highly sanitized

lies in the premise that a body hierarchy

version of what has become palatable

56


within the norm of dance conventions. I

of the corps is to become like all the other

exist within the community to be a point of

members in the company. Other members

difference. My difference being that I am a

of the community, including independents

representation of the diversity in the dance

and small to medium companies, also

ecology, but not enough in which I am able

support and utilize their skills to contribute

to claim ownership of my own body. The

to this dance ecology.

ownership of my body has never existed, as I haven’t been permitted in my training

Where then does the dancer with the

to explore it in its entirety.

disability fit? Unless one is ‘lucky’ enough to enter the corps, the majority of these

This essay is therefore a conversation

dancers occupy a ‘grey space’, somewhere

between my two bodies; one that has

in the middle of this hierarchal structure.

gained acceptance within the Contem-

Unable to access the ‘necessary’ skills,

porary dance community and one that is

these dancers are made to catch up within

to be made manifest. It is a way in which I,

professional situations by learning their

and perhaps others like me, exist and can

craft on the job, while their counterparts

make sense of this conundrum and offer

having already learnt their craft flourish.

an alternative to a way in which we can

This exact scenario has been a reality for

free ourselves from these conventions.

quite a few professional dance companies

One of the driving forces behind the

that employ dancers with disabilities and is

exclusion of dancers with disabilities in

one of the strongest arguments for the need

the Contemporary dance world seemed

of inclusion in all facets of dance education.

to be an issue of aesthetic and it is for this

Therefore, there exists an obvious gap

reason I will begin with it.

between the access of knowledge and skill within the two groups. It is this access that

In Contemporary dance, the aesthetic of

lead me to initially conclude that entry

the human body on stage is driven in part

into the corps by dancers with a disability

by the ballet positioning of what is and is

would even out the playing field. But now I

not acceptable. Australia Contemporary

question, will it?

and Ballet dance companies could be seen as top of the food chain both in terms

In order to enter the corps, you need to

of visibility and funding. Those learning

fit a certain aesthetic that is not part of

their craft in the institutions, such as the

the aesthetic of disability, able bodieness.

universities or conservatories, share the

Due to my invisible difference, I was able

ballet corps’ mentality, where the goal

to enter the corps but could only flourish

57


to a certain extent. In order to fit in, I

unique, individual and interesting of the

looked at ways to transcend my limitations

dancer and replacing it with a sanitized

and become more able bodied. I began to

version of something more palatable, and

participate in activities that would extend

perhaps, more relatable for the viewing

my capabilities, and were seen by teachers

public. My own experience confirms this as

as being ‘good for me’. An example of this

I was made to look at my more ‘desirable’

is my attempt to do gymnastics knowing

attributes of my body, such as my legs,

full well that my spine was incapable of

and not my ‘disability’. Thereby, my current

achieving the bend and flexibility essential

knowledge of my own body has been

to the art of gymnastics.

robbed. In its place lies a version of which is perhaps marketable as the able bodied

While some may argue that is a great way

experience, thus allowing me to participate

of increasing skill and technique, I have

on the pretense that I negate my own

to ask, what skill and technique was I

disability in favor of conventionalized

perfecting? Was it indeed learning the art

dance norms.

of gymnastics to the best of my ability? Or was it just a way in which I tried to negate

Even the notion of ‘integrated dance’,

my disability in order for me to feel more

where the objective is to foster working

comfortable within my surroundings?

relationships between that of the able bodied dancer and the dancer with a

In order for a person with a disability to

disability has led to an erosion of the

become accepted into the Contemporary

individual self. Wherein a space in which

dance community, we frequently have to

dancers with disabilities occupy as ‘equal’

transcend limitations. When an individual

to that of the able bodied dancer, much

is seen to transcend these limitations, he

of the focus lies on developing artistic

or she is elevated to an almost superhuman

practices and techniques that foster the

status or viewed as a curiosity. The word

able bodied approach of achieving rather

‘inspiration’ may be applied. And like the

than through the individual’s own personal

patient that learns to walk again, some sort

history and/or perspective. In a sense,

of ‘miracle’ has occurred within the eyes of

permission is sought to enter the space

those who witness it.

(that I leave my disability at the door in order to participate). But in a space that is

The aesthetic of able-bodied dance as

considered to be a ‘safe place’, permission

become a silent killer of the aesthetic

shouldn’t be given in the first place! My

of disability, carving away that which is

artistic expression and value as a dancer

58


‘The new forms that we crave and desire can be found within our own aesthetic and not the able bodied version.’ shouldn’t be dictated by a core set of

Armed with this information, I can now

beliefs that say that in order to be of value

empower others to do the same. So who

I must first be homogenized to fit my role

cares if you forgot your lines when you walk

as dancer/artist?

on stage! Who cares if you can’t hear the music! Who cares if you dribble or drool!

It is at this point that I call upon individual

Who cares if you shake uncontrollably!

artists to take forward the reigns of

Who cares if you can’t bend your spine! It

emancipation, and for myself, to check my

is these aspects of yourself that make you

own conservative values at the front door.

valuable as an artist and are inherently part

For I can no longer hope to be the dancer

of your technical makeup, your point of

I imagined I would become during those

difference and your individuality.

years of training. Instead, I must invest in my own exploration of what my body does and

For too long now, we have been herded

what it is capable of within the realm of my

onto stage and made to play ourselves

own culture and not the dominant hierarchy.

like cardboard cutouts and safe sanitized

This notion I find empowering as it places

versions of what is considered acceptable.

my body at the forefront of innovation and

While others are allowed to explore the

creation within my art form and negates any

intrinsic nature of their bodies, even the

previous held perceptions of what is right

grotesque, the same is not allowed of us

and wrong within my own conventional

for fear of either embarrassment or the

upbringing. My dance technique has been

perception that we want to be like others.

staring at me the whole time. I just needed

If we are to discover the hidden talents

a way in which to find it.

within our own bodies, then we need to

59


reject this idea that dance or any art form

negates your body and finally complete

is dominated by the able bodied aesthetic,

annihilation of the culture that inhabits your

and instead, return the balance of power to

body. In short, we become culturally barren

us as artists. The new forms that we crave

and exist as prototypes for the masses and

and desire can be found within our own

where our representation of ourselves is

aesthetic and not the able bodied version.

governed by the premise that we show the

It is time to shake things up.

‘good’ side of ourselves and not the ‘bad’.

When I wrote about this research topic

In the last few years there has been a shift

four years ago, I never imagined the

in the cultural landscape in the disability

impact such a question would have on

arts sector. There are more discussions

my life. My quest for knowledge has led

happening than ever before in Australia

me all over the world, visiting different

and we are starting to reap the benefits

companies, meeting dancers and engaging

of this discourse. The tide is changing and

with the disability arts community. The

we are starting to see a difference. The

proposal - the place of the dancer with

questions we face at this cross-road is, do

a disability in the contemporary dance

we want to continue with the same path

world - led me to believe that somehow

travelled that has become almost a yard

there could be a place for the dancer

stick measurement of how to successfully

with a disability. However four years on,

achieve in our art form? Or do we forge

the answer has changed, and I instead

ahead, create a new pathway and leave all

question the validity of the statement

conventions behind? The answer is up to us.

rather than the implications of it. Like others, I found myself trying to find a solution to something that didn’t need

Article Cover Photograph of Joshua with his head

a solution in the first place. I had been

protruding out of sand at Bundanon during Critical

duped into thinking that our bodies, due

Path’s Residency Program Body as Material.

to some intervention, could be inserted

Photograph by Julie Vulcan

into the able-bodied Contemporary dance world. That somehow we could become one with the Contemporary dance gods and goddess. The cost of this is high, an erosion of the self and individual, an artistic aesthetic that

60


Joshua Pether BIO Joshua Pether is an independent dancer/

Joshuaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s current practice takes many

choreographer based in Western Australia.

forms and moves between traditional

He is of Kalkadoon heritage and also

investigative processes of dance to

identifies as having a disability. Joshua is

moments of the bizarre. The two

a graduate of ACPA (Aboriginal Centre

intertwining cultures of indigeneity and

for the Performing Arts). In 2012, as a

disability help to shape his practice

member of LINK Dance Company, he

and vision, enabling him to physicalize

toured nationally and internationally.

movement through his own physicality.

Additionally, he has been the recipient

www.facebook.com/JPProjects79

of various Australia Council grants for professional development As a mentee of Dan Daw, a UK based dance artist with a disability, Joshua engaged on an international level with integrated dance companies in both Europe and the UK. At present, he divides his time between various independent projects on the East Coast of Australia and as a dancer for Touch Compass, New Zealandâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s first integrated dance company, where he dances for them on a project basis.

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ISSUE 7.2 | DISABILITY | MARCH 2017  

Artists speak about their experiences and claiming spaces as artists with disability.

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