Critical Dialogues | Issue 7 | Disability | Sept 2016

Page 1


ISSUE 007 SEPTEMBER 2016 ISSN 2206-9615



Commissioning Editor


Sarah-Vyne Vassallo

Claire Hicks

Copy Editor

General Manager

Laura Osweiler

Laura Osweiler


Project Manager

Keegan Spring

Bibi Serafim

Accessibility Advisor Accessible Arts

Contributors Dan Daw Sonja Jokoniemi Kate Maguire-Rosier Rita Marcalo Kate Marsh Michelle Ryan Keegan Spring Sarah-Vyne Vassallo Dean Walsh Commissioned by Accessible Arts Kate Maguire-Rosier & Michelle Ryan

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

CONTENTS Introduction

Sarah-Vyne Vassallo


What is the Future of Institutional Dance?




Dan Daw

Becoming Leaderful Kate Marsh


Sonja Jokiniemi

An Atmosphere of Journeys Kate Maguire-Rosier


Hidden Abilities - Dissed or Otherwise Dean Walsh


Invisible Disability: Moving Towards Disappearance Rita Marcalo


Diversity at the Forefront Michelle Ryan


Reaching the Tipping Point Dan Daw


Designing Critical Dialogues for Accessibility Keegan Spring




SARAH-VYNE VASSALLO I write this introduction as a Sydney based

in Australia, it is an ‘emerging’ area of

NSW Australian artist and I want to pay

practice. Whilst there have been many

homage to the many non-conventional

artists cultivating, developing and leading

artists and thinkers that have gone before

in this field for over a decade, it has

us. Particularly in the historical dance

only recently become recognised more

lineage to the likes of the expressionists,

publicly within the contemporary arts and

the avant-garde artists, the modernists

cultural community.

and post-modernists. Whilst there are too many names to mention, I fully understand

In 2010, I began working part-time for

that the ‘claiming of space’ is not a new

Accessible Arts as an Arts Development

concept and, in fact, has been the systemic

Manager in performing arts. With my area

ingredient for the evolution of the arts for

of practice being dance and theatre, I was

hundreds of years. ‘The Critical Dialogues:

given a long leash by the CEO, Sancha

Claiming Space’ e-journal has been inspired

Donald, to explore what opportunities

and curated with this in mind.

were available to people with disability to engage with contemporary dance in a

Over the last 25 years, the professional

professional environment. I spent my first

practice of integrated contemporary

12 months conducting field work, research

dance has been building momentum in the

and interviews. Sadly, at this time there

United Kingdom and America. Currently

were no current opportunities or pathways


Sarah-Vyne demonstrating a rolling task arm and leg stretched out along the floor at the Murmuration arts and education day. Photograph by Gisella Vollmer.

in place and this was why the Catalyst

My role at Accessible Arts and also the

Dance program was birthed. Over the 6

arts and disability community work I had

years I have been directing this program,

been doing at the time, proved to impact

it has proven to activate, connect, expand

me greatly by expanding my thinking and

and advocate for dancers with disability.

notion of who and what the performing

It has cultivated professional pathways

arts is for. My interest and explorations as

and linkages to some of Australia’s leading

an artist were affected in the most positive

choreographers. It has supported artists

ways. I began to work more intuitively

and arts workers with and without dis-

and flexibly, which was both liberating

abilities in professional development and

and empowering. Over the past 30 years

mentorships. It has reached new audiences

I have faced, managed and survived post

and arts organisations, most of which

traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that has

were seeing integrated dance for the first

now developed into an anxiety disorder.

time. The program grew from a state-

And as fate would have it, eight years ago

based initiative into a national program

I was diagnosed with an incurable chronic

in its final two years. In this publication,

illness. This is my lived experience of

several authors reference the program

disability. This is what I identify to be

as it has made significant contributions

my invisible disabilities. A lifetime of

to the development of dance artists with

specialists, surgeries, therapies, self-care

disability and to the arts and disability

and chronic pain that has at times left me

sector at large in Australia.

bed ridden or unable to function as I know how and has and will continue to define


many aspects of my life. Whilst I am

spanning 20 years. Over this time, I have

very high-functioning and my conditions

worked as a performer, maker, director,

don’t visibly present themselves, I am

choreographer, teacher and arts manager.

often trapped by these very qualities,

As previously mentioned, for the past nine

perpetuating my condition and in turn not

years I have been working in a particular

self-managing the best way that I should.

field of arts practice that is known as many

This is a constant daily negotiation that I

things. These terms are as diverse as the

consistently fall and rise from. It is through

practitioners and their practice and dem-

these lenses that I engage with the world,

onstrate through language the various

my arts practice and the artists and peers

spaces being claimed.

I work with. It is through these lenses - Arts and disability - Artist with disability


- Disabled artist - Disability arts


- Mixed abilities - Disability-led practice


- Working with people with and without disability


- Integrated dance - Integrated arts

that I began a journey in activating new

- Physically integrated dance

creative spaces, breaking down barriers,

- Inclusive arts

and deeply desiring support, integration

- Social innovation

and inclusivity for all. Disability is an

- Change makers

evolving spectrum. It currently affects 1

- Advocates

in 5 Australians, yet it still seems to be

- Political artists

considered ‘marginalised’. There are still many societal stigmas, and particularly for

And so on and so fourth I could go…

people with identifiable disabilities, there are still many barriers to even engage in

Language rhetoric and identity politics has

everyday activities.

played an important role in promoting and educating society about what this field

I feel very privileged to be able to say

of arts practice is and might be. Over the

that I have a career in the performing arts

past five to ten years, I have witnessed


‘In Transit’ first stage development by Sarah-Vyne Vassallo. Dancers, Chris Bunton, Anthea Doropoulos and Sarah Fiddman. Produced by DirtyFeet 2014. Photography by Hayley Rose.

first-hand, significant changes in the

many poignant conversations that I have

recognition and inclusion of people with

had with some of the artists included in

disability in the Australian political climate.

this publication. A conversation that I find

This has in turn seen arts and disability

far more relevant and interesting is the

policies and strategies develop, in many

one regarding the culture of disability and

cases for the very first time. I understand

consequently the sub-culture of artists

that in society we need language and

with disability. As an artist, I find I am

definitions and tick boxes to assist us in

more comfortable talking about culture

better understanding humanity at large,

as it seems to be less definitive than the

and that language serves many purposes.

rhetoric of language. In the United Nations

However, when it boils down to arts pro-

Convention on the Rights of Persons

cess and practice and when we are talking

with Disability, it states that we need to

about artists making art, language can

‘recognise that disability is an evolving

at times make things over complicated,

concept’.1 Through my experiences, I have

confusing and even restrictive.

found this to be profoundly true. We don’t fit under one label. We can’t tick one box.

With that being said, there is a conver-

There isn’t one inclusive arts method as

sation that has been unfolding for quite

there is no such thing as a one size fits all

some time within this field, particularly

model. It is impossible to be an ‘expert’ in

with one of the United Kingdom’s leading

this field. We make room. We regenerate.

arts programs Unlimited and independent

We find new ways of doing, thinking and

artists Marc Brew, Caroline Bowditch and

practicing and in some cases, we overturn


what has been before. Why would we

interesting arts. A desired artistic starting

want to make a square peg fit in a round

place that most artists crave and seek out

hole anyway? How boring. How tried

and for us, just is. Yes, it can be complex,

and tested is that? So instead of ‘fitting

unknown and challenging. But hasn’t

within’, we claim the space that is and

history continually demonstrated over and

when needed, we propose, and make

over again that the birthing place of great

more room. We demand to move past the

ideas is often cultivated with the misfits,

traditional constructs of Contemporary

the fringe dwellers and those that aren’t

dance that we have been accustomed to in

always ‘seen’?

Western dance cultures. This progressive view of the arts landscape is the very core

Another area of contention that I am

of what excites and liberates my arts

faced with on a regular basis is the idea

practice daily.

that ‘integrated dance’ is exclusively community-based or a form of dance

In connecting with other artists who

therapy, meaning that it is considered

identify or have lived experiences of dis-

a ‘good cause’, or for recreational or

ability, I have truly found my tribe. They

therapeutic purposes only. I am often

have opened up and activated areas of

confronted and taken back with peoples’

my creativity that had previously been

overwhelming enthusiasm when I tell

unengaged. For me, the more diversity

them I work with artists with and without

that is present in the room, the more my

disability. With the best of intentions,

artistic self and practice makes sense

people often respond by saying, ‘oh

to me. I am often working with people

wow, that’s so inspirational’ or ‘wow,

with cognitive developmental delays,

I don’t know how you do it’, or ‘wow,

neurological disorders, complex mental

that’s just so lovely that you can give

health conditions or different physical

back like that’. I am challenged by these

anatomies. Each person contributes by

preconceptions of who and what dance

bringing their unique life experience and

is for, and I don’t really know where to

viewpoint, thus creating a radical creative

place these comments. Regardless of the

environment. This space has sharpened my

best of intentions, it is these comments

ability to be more intuitive, responsive and

that continually remind me that we have

flexible and presented non-conventional

a very long way to go in Australia before

ways of processing, problem solving and

artists with disability are seen as part of and

creative decision making. Together, this

intrinsic to the artistic fabric that makes

rich diversity creates unexpected and

up the ever expanding arts and cultural


sector. I guess that’s why language is still important; while it can present limitations, it also serves a purpose. Beyond all the labels and our attempts at being politically correct, my personal mantra is to stay true to your dance. Stay true to your authentic self and express that. Find a way, anyway you know how and express that. Stay steadfast to your art making, in the studios, theatres and films. Delve deep within yourself to express that which is unique to you and your culture. Therefore, inherently redefine dance. I say, we just have to get on with it really; more doing and less talking. Then if we keep on doing, I do foresee, one day, hopefully not too far in the future, we will have claimed our space as ‘artists’ … Just artists...

Article Cover Image is a part of Murmuration. Directed by Sarah-Vyne Vassallo. Photographer Gisella Vollmer.


United Nations, General Assembly, Convention on

the Right of Persons with Disabilities. Preamble (e). A/61/611 (December 2006), available from


‘Kazuo Ohno: Dancer who co-founded the modern

Butoh style and brought it to the world stage’, obituary by Martin Childs in ‘Independent’ (7 July 2010).


SARAH-VYNE VASSALLO BIO Sarah-Vyne Vassallo is a producer, director and choreographer. With a career spanning two decades, she has worked professionally as a performer and a creative in arts and entertainment. SarahVyne has created across commercial and contemporary dance, theatre, television, film, curation and arts development. She is a 2013 Winston Churchill Fellow, and throughout her career has worked with Sydney Festival, Sydney Comedy Festival, Sydney Opera House, Museum of Contemporary Arts, Art Gallery of NSW, Ausdance, Shaun Parker and Company, Accessible Arts, Critical Path, DirtyFeet, Bankstown Arts Centre, Sidetrack Theatre, Disney, ABC, Screentime and Channel 7. Sarah-Vyne is the artistic driving force behind Sydney’s first integrated performance company, ‘Murmuration’. She is a Sydney based artist who identifies with invisible disabilities. Sarah-Vyne is also an Artist Representative on Critical Path’s Board.




DAN DAW The following article are two pieces

before you today to say that all of those

charting Australian artist Dan Daw’s

things led to my becoming a dancer;

continued development as a dance

moving to the UK and dancing for

maker and curator during his fellowship

Candoco Dance Company, then for

year with the BBC and South East Dance .

Skånes Dansteater and being invited to

It documents and offers insight into his

this conference to ponder the question:

modes of thought around practice,

‘What is the future of institutional dance?’


collaboration, dance company structures and disability dance.

This is a question I hold myself as a dancer who has worked, and is working,

Dan Daw of Dan Daw Creative Projects

inside an institutional structure2.

offers an alternate perspective.

Spending long periods inside of this structure with Candoco, I became lost.

Good afternoon fellow artists, distin-

Although I very much enjoyed touring

guished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

and performing repertory work by

I stand before you today as a man. I

Wendy Houstoun, Rachid Ouramdane

stand before you today as a gay man. I

and Trisha Brown (to name, but a few),

stand before you today as an Australian

there was still something missing. I felt

gay man. I stand before you today as

I wanted more responsibility. Sure I led

an Australian gay disabled man. I stand

classes, taught workshops and spoke




at press conferences, but that’s not

as a guest artist at Skånes Dansteater,

what I craved. As a dancer, I craved

I made the conscious decision to work

artistic responsibility. As a dancer

with them. This had led to me confidently

within an institution I had the question.

being able to say I am an artist. Now I

‘How can we, the dancers, have artistic

don’t say this to be pretentious or morally

responsibility for the work being comm-

superior, but I do say this to highlight the

issioned by the companies we work for?’

sense of empowerment ‘taking artistic responsibility’ continues to give me.

I’d like to borrow those last three words ‘we work for’ and offer to you that we

As an artist working with Skånes

are the language we use. It has occurred

Dansteater, I landed on my feet. I was

to me now that rather than working ‘for’

launched into a collaboration with

institutions, I work ‘with’ institutions.

Martin Forsberg, Jenny Nordberg,

This simple shift in language provokes a

Chrisander Brun, Lidia Wos, Kang

greater shift in attitude, approach and,

Ma and Sindri Runnude. We worked

indeed, culture.

together to create ‘THE EXTENDED VERSION OF NOTHING’, which

This sense of collaboration is exactly

forms part of the company’s triple

what I craved, but was not finding in

bill, M&M&M to be premiered here in

instructional dance at the time. Invited

Stockholm at Dansens Hus on 5 & 6 March.

Dan Daw, choreographer Martin Forsberg, designer Jenny Nordberg and Candoco Co-Artistic Director Stine Nilsen in post-show conversation following the work-in-progress sharing 15 of ‘BEAST’. Photograph by Graham Adey

For those of you familiar with Martin and

and directing others to direct me. I

Jenny’s work, you’ll know they work in

describe it as an audition in reverse;

a very concrete way and that function is

dissolving the only too familiar

used to arrive at form. If you’ve worked

hierarchy between choreographer,

with Martin, you’ll also know that he will

creative team and performer.

ask; ‘How was that for you?’ Being asked this question after every task and every

Investigative in my approach, I want to

run through made me accountable for my

work towards commissioning a new body

own artistry and made me ask of myself,

of work that:

‘Why do I do what I do?’ and ‘Why do I make the creative choices I make?’

- Is collaborative;

Inspired by this level of enquiry within

- Seeks to ask questions, not provide

our process, I knew quite early on I


had to work with Martin and Jenny again. Taking the bull by the horns or

- Asks the audience to be active, not

‘artistic responsibility,’ if you will, I

passive, in how they experience the work;

asked Martin and Jenny if they would consider collaborating with me further

- Directly or indirectly acknowledges the

on the making of a new solo work, and

stage and auditorium as one room – what

expressing to them how much I enjoyed

is the audience’s relationship to me, as

working with them.

performer? And vice-versa. Why work in this way?

‘Yes, we would love that,’ Martin and Jenny replied.

In a blog I recently wrote in my capacity as a BBC Performing Arts Fund Fellow

It was from this reciprocated agreement

with South East Dance entitled ‘Reaching

over drinks and dinner that Dan Daw

The Tipping Point’, I expressed my concern

Creative Projects began. Under this

that ‘disability dance’ is viewed by many

umbrella, I work collaboratively with a

leaders (namely programmers) within the

growing network of artists who interest

art form as a genre. This needs to shift.

me to develop new work for UK and

Shift beyond box ticking exercises and

international audiences. Taking this

stopping the ‘they’re doing it so we don’t

curatorial approach to work, I enjoy

have to’ rhetoric. My question is,

having autonomy in the creative process


What cultural shift needs to happen for dance as an art form to include disability in its fabric? I respond by setting up Dan Daw Creative Projects. How do you respond?

Article Cover Image by Graham Adey 1

The BBC Performing Arts Fellowship Fund

enabled Dan to realise his potential as an artistic director and leader through working with invited choreographers, opening his rehearsal process to others for feedback and engaging with SED and its networks. 2

Refers to the structure or environment of a

dance company or organisation.




KATE MARSH The following is an excerpt from Kate Marsh’s

It was in reviewing the raw film that

PhD thesis, ‘Taking Charge, Dance, Disability and

I began to make decisions not about

Leadership: The Shifting Role of the Disabled

what worked in terms of artistic output,

Dance Artist’. The following section details a

but about consciously exploring my

reflective account of a creative period shared

leadership ability.

between Kate and collaborator, Welly O’Brien.

Creating a filmed record of the dance There was a cycle involving the raw

process significantly increased my

filmed material and resulting rough-cut

awareness of authorship of the duet.

film. I saw my leadership evidenced in

Observing myself centrally located within

the progression of the work; the raw

the development of the dance gave me

recordings demonstrated the decisions I

a strong sense of the work belonging to

was making about the dance. For instance,

myself and Welly O’Brien. The concept

the costume would change from week one

of authorship is key to the experience

to week three or sections of the dance

of dancing and dance-making. The

would be extended or cut. In editing the

relationship between the dancer and

film, I was reminded of these processes,

authorship of their performed work

which at the time seemed inconsequential.

is complex. The embodied or ‘lived’

The visual record provided the opportunity

experience of dancing resists formal

to see development ‘as it happened’.

definition, and as such, is difficult to


classify as ‘belonging’ to anyone. If choreo-

makes it ‘ours’. I notice the movement

graphic practice is a manifestation of

vocabulary that I see as uniquely mine or

the individual artist’s thoughts, performed

the movement of mine and O’Brien’s bodies

versions are all embodiments of such ideas

together, which looks to my editorial eye

(Pavis 2014). This is particularly pertinent in

as a representation of our friendship. I

the case of our duet as it is the culmination

can also see all of our creative research

of decades of conversations, shared

manifested in the film. For example, the

thoughts, shared experiences and dancing

scattered, rejected props in the frame

together. It ‘feels’ highly personal and it

signify our process of trial and selection.

‘feels’ like ours.

The easiness between us as we move and talk simultaneously while we remember

Through engaging in the process of

or rehearse our ideas. It is strange to me

making a new film based on the creative

that this work could be anything other

collaboration with O’Brien, I discovered,

than ‘mine’ or ‘ours’. We are the dance

and what I want to assert here, is the

and the dance is us. In my perception

important link between ownership,

they cannot exist indep-endently. The

authorship and leadership. To be author

rough-cut film seems to respond to this

and owner of one’s own creative work

idea. In documenting the process I am

is integral to identifying as a leader.

cementing the duet, ‘Famuli’, as belonging

Conversely, feelings of not owning the

to myself and O’Brien. It is crucial to note

work in which your body is a central

that although the live work is derived from

instrument may be detrimental to feeling

my collaboration with O’Brien, I am the

leaderful. In the process of making the

author of this work. It feels like a tangible

film, this sense of ownership is brought

artefact; a document that has the potential

into focus. I look back at my work and

to speak for us. It is a visual representation

witness the details that I perceive as what

of a process that led to a product. The film

Film Stills from ‘Becoming Leaderful’ by Kate Marsh


has become a central part of the creative

echoes through my own experience of

narrative of the journey of our duet. It

teaching and training others. My position

reiterates our relationship and nods to the

as a disabled dancer means that I offer a

different spaces we have worked in and

unique perspective within a wider dance

the support we have received. It is proof

context, which has informed my self-

of our research and our interrogation.

perception as a person with knowledge

All these factors strengthen my sense of

and experience in a particular area.

the work as ‘mine’ and consequently my feelings of leadership and autonomy.

The feeling of responsibility did not extend to a view of myself as a leader. At least I did not feel that other people


would perceive me as leader material. In dance, there are limited examples


of disabled dance artists as leaders. A lack of role models impacts not just on


disabled people in dance, but it also informs the perception of non-disabled


people in dance. Disabled role models serve a dual purpose. They present potential leadership to aspiring disabled

The cumulative process of applying for

dancers. In addition, they demonstrate

funds, researching, choreographing and

to the art form overall that leadership is

dancing in the live and filmed elements

not restricted to non-disabled people in

of my collaboration with O’Brien could

dance. This has informed the dichotomy

be perceived as a journey into leadership.

of my own leadership. At times, I feel

I have trained and worked in dance for

like a leader. I pursue my practice with a

over two decades. During this time, I

determination to lead and be autonomous

have performed, taught and taken part in

in my dance endeavours. Conversely, I am

discussions and symposia across a range

often confronted with a sense of self-doubt

of contexts. On paper I have been ‘doing’

when I am the only disabled person in a

leadership. In philosophical terms, however,

room, university, studio or theatre. The

I have not perceived myself to be a leader.

societal narrative of managing rather than

As O’Brien suggests in my discussions

succeeding or excelling that I have felt

with her, in the act of teaching she can

defined by reminds me of my perceived

feel like she is ‘in charge’. This feeling

place, thereby raising an interesting issue


regarding the theory and practice of

I am using the research as a moment to

leadership development in dance.

make a leader of myself or make others see me as leaderful.

There have been a number of initiatives in dance over the previous two decades

In editing the film, I am able to make an

including those by, Candoco1, Coventry

interesting observation as I see myself

University2, Trinity Laban3 and GDance4

reflected on film. The ‘I’ that is editing

in the UK. These have centred on access

and choosing can decide how I want to

and inclusion. And certainly when I have

present myself to others. My film is also

attended, there are shared ideologies of

an opportunity to shift the ‘usual’ viewing

equal participation and access to dance

of my impairment as uncontrolled by me

training and practice. However, this is

to purely sharing myself as I am in the

problematic when confronted by the

moment. As I select the clips for the rough

wider contemporary dance field. As a

cut, it becomes clear that although the

sector, we can talk about improving access

process of editing offers me significant

and opportunity, but as is evidenced by a

control, the viewing of this film is beyond

lack of disabled leaders in dance, are we

my control. The audience is free to pause,

really prepared to imbed these ideologies

rewind, fast-forward and zoom in and out.

in our practice?

This is a liberating experience, because I will not witness the response or experience

Through the production of a reflective film,

the staring encounter.

I was not dependent on an experienced non-disabled dance practitioner to assist

I am more bold with the body that I project

in the editing or decision making about

in the film. There is a body honesty that

what I should show and what I should omit.

seems more illusive in live performance. I

This gave me a unique opportunity to

can show my stump, my non-hand, my left

project myself as a leader. This is a feeling

arm (none of these terms are satisfactory,

that has emerged over the course of the

because my hand is my hand, so any

research. Myself and my experience have

other name is hard to find, and somehow

been central to the study. The research

the term ‘hand’ does not seem sufficient

has provided me with a formal framework

here) to the viewer. I can use the film to

for questioning my own position in dance.

share my vulnerability and my strength.

With each conference I attend or meeting I

For example, I re-watch a moment where

am involved in, I feel an opportunity to self-

I am holding a balloon filled with helium

observe. Noting my reaction and response,

during a rehearsal. The studio had very


Kate and Welly in ‘Famuli’. Welly holds on to Kate’s neck as Kate pushes her away. Photograph by Matthew Niemc.

high ceilings and the manager of the space

it also indicates that as artists, we have

informed us that if the balloons floated up

in that scenario achieved our objective;

there, they would never get them down. In

that this process would not take itself

this moment the camera had been left on

too seriously and that we would strive to

as we recorded the day’s rehearsal. I lost

maintain a focus on creating a duet that

my grip on the ribbon holding the balloon

was about the real us and our real bodies.

and as it floats away, I saw myself jumping up, laughing in an attempt to retrieve the

The following section presents a description

balloon. I then observe my expression, my

of ‘Famuli’ from my perspective. Informal

eyes and body language indicate a shared

modes of writing are employed to provide

moment with O’Brien (she is not visible

insight into the personal nature of the

on the film, but I know that I am directing

practice and my immediate response to it.

my disbelief at her and she is reflecting it back to me). This moment is one of my

Downstage there is a single bench. O’Brien

favourites in the film as it speaks clearly

sits on the edge of the bench looking away

to my working and personal relationship

from the point where I enter. I walk slowly

with O’Brien. In terms of our collaboration,

towards her. I have a balloon tied to my


foot. The balloon sways and bounces with each step, which I take carefully to stop it


from detaching from my foot.


I arrive in front of the bench and remove


the balloon by untying the string that holds it in place. I hold the string in my right hand


and extend my arm away from my body. I stand like this for a moment. I reach with


my left arm and wrap the ribbon around my wrist and forearm. For a second it seems


as if my hand is the balloon. I extend the balloon above my head. As I do this, O’Brien looks up and watches me from the bench.

duet together. At one point she shoves my I unravel the ribbon and move towards

face with her shorter leg. In the process

O’Brien where I tie the balloon to a metal

and performance of this moment, we

ring and place it on the floor. The helium

know we are challenging assumptions

filled balloon suspends next to the bench.

about impairment and the way in which

I sit at the opposite end of the bench

audiences view us.

facing the audience. Leading with my left arm, I scan the audience by moving my

O’Brien and I do these things because we

outreached arm from left to right. As I

can and because we are not restricted

do this, I am aware of the demand I am

by an agenda of ‘performing normal’ or

making of them to look at me, at my hand,

being ‘inspiring’. In the work we make

or where my hand ‘should’ be.

together, impairment is integral to the dance. We are consciously un-covering

I am asking the audience to see me, to see

ourselves and this feels both empowering

the whole me. I am deliberately making

and vulnerable. In order to progress in

my disability part of the movement, not

dance, impairment must be manageable.

because I want to make a statement about

The demands of a long choreographic

disability, but because it is part of my

process followed by touring and often

body, and therefore, part of my dancing.

teaching are not accommodating to

This seems even more significant when

fatigue, pain or in some instances medical

O’Brien and I perform our missing limbs

appointments or intervention.


Mainstream UK contemporary dance is

dance in a way that accounts for them

a highly competitive environment that

as individuals. Until all funding includes

develops and shifts quickly in terms of

support that allows appropriate access and

both training and professional practice.

development, disabled dancers will remain

Disabled dancers are often expected to

extra and peripheral to ‘normal’ dancing.

slot into this environment and attempt to fit into codified frameworks of language,

In the research, film and performance of

body and choreographic vocabulary.

the duet with O’Brien, I have felt less

This environment takes little account of

restricted by the constraints of presumptions

differentiation between all dancers. The

and norms in dance than I have felt in

presence of disabled artists undermines

my past career. I am liberated from my

Contemporary dance’s traditional agenda for

personal need to adhere to stereotypes

sameness. To recognise one’s disability and

of how disabled dance artists should look

to ask for adaptation or acknowledgement

or perform. It must be noted here that

of the specifics of your body and its re-

this is a result of many factors. Working

quirements places the disabled dancer in

concurrently on my practice and my

a vulnerable position. In a world where

doctoral research, which are sometimes

people and organisations are competing

interrelated, has led to me encountering

for a limited amount of funding and

new environments and shaping a new

opportunity, it is difficult to ask for more

position for myself in dance. This freedom

or a different way of working without

has enabled me to be inside my own work

appearing weak or being perceived

as a leader and also to reflect back and

through a lens of trauma and need.

see myself emerging as leaderful. I am not ‘fitting in’ to a prescribed ideology of

There are some examples of funding and

leadership in dance.

opportunity given to disabled artists that is fitted to meet their needs; e.g. personal assistants, accessible accommodation,

Article Cover Image is a film still from ‘Becoming

sign language interpretation are among

Leaderful’ by Kate Marsh

a number of additional factors. These ‘accommodations’ are still rare in the


Contemporary dance sector. Such fract-

disabled and non-disabled dancers, founded in

ional support for disabled artists means

1991. Candoco produces excellent and profound

that externally it can appear they are

experiences for audiences and participants that

well supported to perform and make

excite, challenge and broaden perceptions of art

Candoco Dance Company is the company of


and ability, and place people and collaboration at the heart of their work. Coventry University - Centre for Dance Research


- (C-DaRE) brings together artists and scholars, working collaboratively with partners from across the creative and cultural industries for interdisciplinary research and knowledge exchange. 3

In 2005, Trinity College of Music and Laban,

leading centres of music and contemporary dance came together to form Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, UK’s first ever conservatoire of music and dance.

Through professional production, research,


legacy projects and sector development initiatives, GDance work to effect positive change in dance, the arts and society through challenging perceptions of disability.

REFERENCES Pavis, Mathilde. ‘Is There Any-body on Stage? A Legal (mis)Under- standing of Performances’. Journal of Theatre and Performing Arts 8.2 (2014): 11-41.




Kate Marsh is a dance artist whose practice

Welly O’brien started dancing after losing

includes teaching in a range of settings,

her leg in 1994, training formally with

on-going research and performance. In

Candoco Dance Company in 1998 on an

2009, Kate completed a Masters in Dance

Arts Council England bursary. In 2000,

by Independent study at DeMontfort

Welly joined the company full time and

University (Improvisation and Widening

toured for 4 years. After starting a family,

Participation in Dance). This sparked an

she returned to dance as a freelance

interest in dance research, which has in-

dancer and teacher. In addition to working

formed her teaching and choreographic

as a Candoco, Associate Artist, Welly has

projects. Kate undertook a fulltime PhD

worked with Graeae Theatre Company,

studentship at Coventry University, which

Frontline Dance, Scarebeus, la Aerial

she completed May 2016. Kate’s doctoral

Theatre, Fura Dels Baus and Wired Aerial.

research examines the shifting role of

She is currently touring with Caroline

the disabled dance artist with a focus

Bowditch’s, ‘Falling in Love with Frida’ and

on the development of dancers with an

performing and working in collaboration

impairment undertaking leading roles in

with Kate Marsh’s research and duet

the sector. Kate’s current performance/

called ‘Famuli’. Welly loves every aspect

research project is an on-going coll-

of performing, whether it is theatre

aboration with Welly O’Brien, including

based, site-specific or outdoor, as each

their duet ‘Famuli’.

experience brings different textures and qualities into her work.




SONJA JOKINIEMI INTRODUCTION The purpose of the PA A book is to share

consists of vocal, haptic, textual and

imprints, memories, mappings, conver-

movement acts and language that is in a

sations and individual languages notated

constant existential process in relation to

throughout my creative process. I strongly

things around and within. In my projects,

believe that languages escape definitions

I attempted to bring validation to the

and should be a more prominent and

subjectivity of language: to the many

visible part of our society because each

diverse aesthetic forms that it takes and

one of us has a relationship to language

where the language of an individual rises

that is intimate. In these languages, I see

to be equally valid and intellectual as the

immense poetic resources. We are always

collectively used system.

hovering between knowing and notknowing. Linguistic thinking in its diverse

I started to work with communities

forms is a way in which patterns of our

outside of the art field in a self-initiated

relationality to the seemingly outside

artistic research project called, ‘Without

world can be expressed and experienced.

an Alphabet’.1 I wanted to engage with people who use alternative communication

I have been interested in subjective

methods in their daily life, or who nearly

language systems in my artistic research

only use languages that in a way escape

for some time. I wanted to look at language

from the definition of language itself. I

in a state of becoming: language that

began from the simple idea that we could


start working together with our own lingual approaches and open them up for each other to learn. I employed touch, movement and sound as core principles in which we approached sense and meaning making.2 The PA A project began with individual meetings with Veera Kivelä, who I met at Maljapuro Activity Centre. Our sessions were based on improvisatory explorations around communicating with each other and the space we inhabited. Later on, I expanded the process to a series of individual and group meetings with additional participants. During these meetings, we focused on different choreographic and perceptual practices, including talking with living and inanimate things within our surroundings. In the process, we took time for touching, grouping things, dwelling with, inhabiting and rocking. The work proposes that environments of not-knowing is a critical practice that could expand knowledge instead of shutting it down. The work is also about sensitizing, exploring how we intimately experience and express our world experience.
































Ä 32



Petri was one of four collaborators from Louhumäki Activity Centre in Kuopio. Veera was a collaborator from Maljapuro Activity Centre. 1





1. Raising the nostatus voice’s äänteellä pitch sävelkorkeuden during the sound

hengitys 4.viheltävä Whistling breathing

paperin kahinaaof paper 2. The rustle

5.paperin Intensive vibration of intensiivinen täristys paper

3. Foot stamps and/or jalan tömistystä ja/tai rytmiä rhythm

6. Rubbing and moving paper paperin hankaaminen ja along the surface of the table kuljettaminen pöydän pintaa pitkin



kosketus kohta Point of touch

sävelkorkeus Pitch of voice

This was one way of practicing and perceiving movement together: to create sound and movement Tämä olimaps yksi tapa harjoittaa ja hahmottaa liikettä yhdessä; with luodapitch liike äänellisiä kosketukseen pohjaavia communication based on touch. Each touch correlated and rhythm. For instance, kommunikaatiokarttoja. Kosketukset vastasivat äänen korkeuksia, sekä rytmiikkaa. Esimerkiksi käsivartta ylös

by touching the arm, the voice’s pitch could rise in a step-like manner or slide fluently, depending

mentäessä äänen sävelkorkeus joko nousi porrasmaisesti tai liukui riippuen kosketuksen laadusta. Kosketuksen

on the quality of theäänteen touch.toistot As touches were repeated, thevarioimalla voice alsosaimme repeated. Throughjaexploration toistoissa, seurasivat. Näitä rakenteita harmonisesti tuntoaistillisesti värikkäitä karttoja luotua. we created harmonically and haptically colourful mappings. and variation of these principles,




1: finish Voidaanko lopettaa? kohtafinish lopettaa? 1. Can we soon? CanVoidaanko we already soon? vielä. we Mietitäänkö joku numero montako kertaahow tehdään? 2. Not 2: yet.EiShall think of a number to decide many times we will do? 1: Mhmm.. 1. Mhhhm… 2: say Elikkä sanot 15movements. eri liikettä... 2. So you 15sinä different

1. No but toosemuch. Isn´t thatse15liikaa. too much. it be less? 1: isn´t Eikunitonko liikaa se 15. Onko Pitäiskö Should sen olla vähemmän? 2. No. Well 2: Ei.10. No kymmennen. 1. No but isn´t that too much. Isn´t that too much too? 1:

Eikun onko sekin liikaa? Oisko sekin liikaa?

2. No it´s not. 2: Ei oo.

1. Noo, yes it is too much. 2. 8.


Eikun on liikaa.




Oisko sekin liikaa?


Se ei oo ainakaan liikaa.

1. Isn´t that too much? 2. That is for sure not too much. 1. It is also too much. That 8 is also too much. 1: 2. I want!

On sekin liikaa. On se kaheksankin liikaa.

2: don´t! Minä haluan! 1. No you 1: No et halua! 2. Could we agree on this? 2: cannot. Voitasko We sopiacannot. tämä? 1. No we 1: this Ei sovita ei sovita. 2. We did a really long time last time.

1. When? 2:

Me tehtiin tätä tosi pitkään sillon viime kerralla.

2. Well1:when it was just two of us. Millon? 1. Two of us. 2:

No sillon kun me oltiin kahestaan.

2. Mmh... We did it for so long, and we said at least 30 things. 1: Kahestaan. 1. Now I will not say very many. 2: tehtiin tosi pitkään, sanottiin varmaan 30 juttua.


Nyt en sano kovin montaa.


No kaheksan ainakin.


Eikun kaheksan on aika, sekin on liikaa. On se kahdeksankin liikaa.


Ei ole.


Eikun on!

2. Well 8 at least.

1. No but 8 is also, it is also too much. It is 8 too much. 2. No it´s not. 1. Yes it is!



ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I hope that this small booklet is a good

Association. The project was produced by Eastern

memory for those that were involved in

Finland Regional Dance Centre.

the project as well as inspiring read to those encountering this material for the


first time. Thank you to my collaborators

has been videowork by Amanda Baggs titled, ‘In

for your beautiful languages that I have

my Language’.

tried to visualize yet that do not in my notations reach their fully rich expression. Languages & materials in collaboration with: Veera Kivelä, Antti, Anna Kumpulainen, Petri & clients of Sofianlehto Service Centre. Made possible by: HelCre-project, Helsinki City & Ministry of Education and Culture. Original Graphic design: Tomi Tallqvist. Musical Consultation: Anni Tolvanen. Production of Without an Alphabet project: Eastern Finland Regional Dance Centre Supported by: Saari residence / Kone Foundation. Mentors: Tomi Paasonen & Katriina Rosavaara.

Article Cover Images are excerpts from the text ‘PA A’ by Sonja Jokiniemi.


‘Without an Alphabet’ project has been made

in collaboration with Louhumäki and Maljapuro Activity Centre and Savolanniemi Housing


One of the background inspirations for this project

SONJA JOKINIEMI BIO Sonja Jokiniemi is a Finnish performance artist and choreographer currently based in Helsinki, Finland. Jokiniemi graduated from Das Theatre program in Amsterdam in 2013. Prior to her MA studies, she completed a BA degree in Contemporary Dance and Choreography at Laban Centre, London in 2006 and has been part of Daghdha Mentoring program in Limerick, Ireland, 2008-2009. Her works take multidisclipinary approaches combining research in the social field, choreographic work, solo performance projects and drawing. Her most recent solo performances are ‘RRRRR’ (2016), ‘Hmm’ (2015) and ‘OH NO’ (2013). Since 2014, Sonja Jokiniemi has worked with autistic young adults exploring subjective language systems under a project named

An excerpt from the text ‘PA A’ by Sonja Jokiniemi.

‘Without an Alphabet’.




KATE MAGUIRE-ROSIER Since 2011, the Catalyst Dance program

artist Marc Brew (Artistic Director of Marc

has reinforced a recognised industry need

Brew Company) and Sydney-based artist

to ‘provide high quality skills development

Sarah-Vyne Vassallo (Artistic Director

and training for dance practitioners, with

of Murmuration). Vassallo has been

and without disability working across the

instrumental in identifying the need for

arts sector’.1 In August 2016, the final stage

a professional development program

of the national Catalyst Dance Residency

like Catalyst, having national reach, but

took the form of a Choreographic Research

situated in NSW and tailored to suit the

Lab. The creative team comprised

shifting needs in the sector.

fourteen artists in residence, four assistant artists and two lead choreographers.

The focus of the lab was to provide

Specifically, participants included Joshua

training in choreographic research and

Campton, Tara Coughlan, Chris Dyke,

development methods for the emerging

Elle Evangelista, Jianna Gourgiou, Zakaria

and early career artists. Dancers with

Ghomri, Kayah Guenther, Lorcan Hopper,

disability radically extend the notion of

Matthew Massaria, Max McAuley, Annabel

dance and more importantly, they do

Saies, Charlie Smith, Allycia Staples and

this on their terms. On the first day, Brew

Karen Veldhuizen, facilitated by David

and Vassallo asked the participants:

Baker, Margot Politis, Matt Shilcock and

‘What does choreography mean to you?’

Melinda Tyquin, and led by international

Responses ranged from the pulse of



which immediately became personified as

an emphasis on process rather than

it reacted to its treatment, springing back

outcomes, the choreographers drew on

after being unravelled or protesting with

their respective methods.

loud scrunches as it was rolled up in haste. Dancers responded to the seemingly alive

Brew, a dancer with disability himself,

prop with bodily expressions of frustration,

aims to ‘redefine expectations of phys-

surprise and finally, triumph.

icality for all performers’.2 Over the course of six days, Brew tasked the dancers

Drawing on devised processes rather than

with, for example, exploring comfortable

set material, Vassallo, who identifies with

and uncomfortable shapes, learning a

invisible disability, seeks ‘interesting ways

movement phrase to ‘manipulate and

to take ordinary human experiences...’3 She

make your own’ guided by a palette of

encourages dancers to allow ideas to be

specific options to change dynamic,

‘informed by their unique physicalities and

order or boundaries as well as group

individuals modes of thinking’.4 Exposing

work. In group tasks, Brew advised the

the artists to a variety of stimuli including

participants to explore partnering, bodily

visually rich paintings, pearl-white stones,

contact, sharing weight across different

a reading of Dr. Suess and multicoloured

body parts, spatial patterns, transitions,

balls of yarn, Vassallo invited dancers to

engaging different body parts to escape

respond verbally in group brainstorms.

an area and finding something in the room

All within strict timeframes, she gave

to use as a prop. In one instance, dancers

participants five minutes to individually

incorporated a scroll of butcher’s paper

workshop and transform their responses


Catalyst Artist Resident Chris Dyke. Photograph by Gisella Vollmer

into movement. Dancers then selected

back to the confined space. She stands,

one stimulus and developed a movement

her eyes half open, half absent. He starts

phrase in collaboration with others who

again: ‘Go!’ This time, she soars up

chose likewise. The result was four vastly

puncturing the space with constricted pin

different choreographies with Vassallo

jumps, slapping her thighs as her body

working as an outside eye. One duet

urgently suspends in mid-flight. He is

presented by Zakaria Ghomri and Elle

always on her tail.

Evangelista was memorable: At the private sharing, one dancer from In the middle of a square metre defined

this duet asked the audience: ‘What’s

by masking tape, a slight man holds a

beyond the box?’ Someone commented,

slightly taller woman under her arms in

‘trust’ and ‘pushing the boundaries’ to

a standing spoon embrace. She rises on

which another spectator agreed adding,

tippy-toes, leans awkwardly before falling.

‘but I’m also there for you…’ Others asked

He catches her and steers her balance, his

questions back: ‘What is in the box?’ A safe

hands touching the top of her shoulders

place? Homebase? A meeting place? For

and then underneath, her armpits. She

someone else, it ‘changed every time’ and

shakes something off exiting the square,

for another, it was like a ‘window, looking

breathing audibly, as if trying to get rid of

through glass’. For Vassallo, audience

ants in her pants. Intermittently, he says

feedback seemed as integral to the

‘Go!’ and pushes parts of her body. She

choreographic process as the

pulls away from each push before rolling

devised material.

away entirely. He follows, dragging her


‘Integrated dance’ is not a genre. Perhaps,

Article Cover Photograph is of Choreographer

at best it denotes, like any innovative

Marc Brew at the Catalyst Dance Residency, 2016 at

approach to dance, a movement within

Critical Path. Photographer: Gisella Vollmer

Contemporary dance. It is not necessarily about disability, nor is it forcibly practised


by those who identify with disability, but it

Arts, see ‘About’. Online:

is always – visibly or invisibly – inflected by


Catalyst Dance is an initiative of Accessible

lived experiences of disability. In observing participants create work, I feel a struggle,


like choreographer and scholar Margaret

program notes. See also online: http://www.

Ames, ‘to find adequate words to describe

Excerpt from Catalyst 2016 private showing

the cultural knowledge they express’.5 3

Catalyst nourishes and celebrates this

Excerpt from Catalyst 2016 private showing

program notes.

movement in contemporary dance practice. However, this year represents



opportunities are paramount to sustain


Ames, Margaret. ‘Dancing Place/Disability’.

artistic practice and ensure the availability

Theatre Research International 40 (2015): 170-185.

the final iteration of the program. Similar

of professional pathways for future inclusive dance praxis. Thanks to Catalyst, the pathways of Australian dance artists working inclusively crisscrossed twice over the past two years. The group’s experience working together was evident in their ease, efficient pace and synergistic presence. Indeed, the two-year process catalysed, as one artist in residence described it, ‘an atmosphere of journeys’. Now, bodies, minds and imaginations cultivated, they are raring to journey on.


KATE MAGUIRE-ROSIER BIO Kate Maguire-Rosier is a dance artist, writer and PhD candidate at Macquarie University. She is passionate about disability and Deaf aesthetics in dance performance and is a visiting research artist in residence with Murmuration. She has been conducting ethnographic research with Murmuration, Dance Integrated Australia, Force Majeure and independent artists Dianne Reid and Melinda Smith. Her writing has been published in Ausdance SA’s aDm Magazine and Macquarie Matrix and she is the recipient of a Macquarie University Research Excellence Scholarship. Kate is also a Senegalese ‘sabar’ dancer, theatre blogger, sessional university tutor and secretary for Treehouse Theatre.




DEAN WALSH Hi, I’m Dean Walsh and I’ve lived with

I would love to have my own fulltime

dance for the past 26 years. Unlike

company to satiate and platform my

numerous contemporaries of my gen-

endless creative drives, research and

eration and calibre, I have never had a

communication interests. Somewhere to

fulltime company of my own, and thus,

communicate this boundless energy of

no promotional machine to consistently

ideas and my embodied environmental

herald my works, ideas, research or

inquiries an all-inclusive working environ-

overall arts (dance based) practice to a

ment. But, I would have to define and ask

wider audience. To be transparent for a

someone for a commitment to a quite

moment, I also do not possess the ability

different working relationship than would

to maintain such a company, at least

be considered standard, or that awful word

not under the current expectations and

‘normal’ modus operandi. A pipe dream

pressures one must operate by as an

idealism, perhaps, but one that is worth

artistic director. To do so, I would require

articulating and striving for nonetheless.

substantial support and within an acutely inclusive understanding of ongoing

The development of professional inclusive

interpersonal operations. I would need an

arts practice is in its infancy in Australia.

infrastructure populated by colleagues

However, it has recently become more

versed in, and willing to take into account

supported by major funding agencies. As

the needs of someone living with autism.

we continue to articulate and demonstrate


the needs of the sector over coming years,

So, now I’ll re-introduce myself. Hi, I’m Dean

I hope such infrastructural leadership

Walsh and I often live within an overload

inclusions may be more adequately

of pictures and problem-solving equations

supported allowing disability-led inclusive

going on in my head with far too many

practice to thrive. For example, I am an

sensations presenting themselves to me at

exceptionally abled body person but my

any one time. Call me an expert of motion

neurological condition can cause me

pictures because, honey, I have a cinema

to shut down when overloaded by the

full in my head. For many years my autism

many administrative pressures amidst the

was hidden behind (and exacerbated by)

performance making process. Training

complex trauma disorder (CTD) – another

programs that educate more co-workers

debilitating condition that doesn’t get

who can support leading practitioners

nearly enough airtime in dance when it

living with disability fulfil their creative

comes to inclusion or exclusion zones. I

visions is also needed. In fact, people

could write a thesis on this topic alone!

with disability who are not interested in being artists but love the arts and show

One island in the sea of misconceptions for

interest in arts administration could make

me has been the Catalyst Dance series1 that

brilliant and insightful contributions to an

I have been involved in since its inception.

inclusive artistic team. This could work as

The series offered a platform that enabled

an empowering environment within the

dialogue around so many matters and

appropriate work ethic whilst embracing

pressing concerns within the arts and

true integration.

disability sector, just as much as it enabled collaborations between experienced and

Many people living on the spectrum

non-experienced artists living with diverse-

are phenomenally creative people.

abilities. It also provided a platform for

However, too many of them choose not

deepening interpersonal relationships that

to participate in activities within the arts

had not previously been possible in the

because of the lack of understanding and

inclusive arts sense. Catalyst has been a

unconscious prejudice around how we

choreographic and performance platform

function – or temporarily dysfunction.

that functioned within the context of greater

If you are high on the spectrum and

inclusive arts sector development, and

non-verbal, then your chances are even

thus, created a network of artists wishing

slimmer of being truly embraced and

to more broadly communicate the needs

understood. I am changing this.

of artists living with disabilities – whether those are in plain sight or hidden from view.




For me, participating in Catalyst as a

is so named for its synergistic potential

choreographer and workshop facilitator

in new collaborative beginnings and

provided an extension on my research

research exchange between the disability,

into developing an all-inclusive embodied

performing arts and marine science

marine environmental awareness practice

communities. Utilising this, I carry

methodology. It has been an invaluable and

out research sessions, direct inclusive

intrinsic platform for me over the last five

performance works, facilitate workshops,

years in developing the inclusive aspects of

teach dance and composition at various

my movement research.

tertiary institutes and present lecture-type demonstrations at arts and environmental

In 2007, I started scuba diving and on

science events.

my very first dive I had an epiphany. I was suddenly bombarded with images,

I enjoy engaging diverse and marginalized

possibilities and methods of how I could

community groups and individuals because

incorporate subaquatic experiences into

I love empowering people, especially

my dance practice. In fact, I couldn’t wait

those who, for whatever reason, feel

to resurface and get started. Since then,

excluded. Catalyst played a substantial

I have been building an interdisciplinary

role in developing the inclusive aspects

and disability-inclusive research and

of ‘PrimeOrderly’ research by affording

performance making practice that has

me time and space to work with large

embodied environmental awareness

groups of people living with vastly diverse

communication at its core.

abilities, many of them experts in their own right in living through systems of exclusion.

My approach to bringing marine environ-

I enjoy being part of this new wave of

mental ecology and technologies (marine

inclusive dance practice experimentations

science and scuba diving) into inclusive arts

and discovery. Catalyst Dance has helped

practice, through embodied application,

in making ‘PrimeOrderly’ a methodology

is entirely unique. I call this research-

that everybody can participate in – which

led practice ‘PrimeOrderly’. It embodies

was my interest all along. Without this

rigorous practical and theoretical inquiry

platform, I would not have been able to

of both inclusive arts and environmental

fast track some of my inclusive movement

science research findings. I rely on my

inquiries to the degree I have. I plan to

SCUBA diving practice as an experiential

continue developing the transformative

means to embody the realms I wish to

effects ‘PrimeOrderly’ has had on people

draw my research from. ‘PrimeOrderly’

living with diverse abilities, and extend its


potential as an inclusive environmental

point in their career, to engage with so

awareness practice, for many years to come.

many diverse participants, to the degree Catalyst Dance enabled, due to a lack of

Working truly inclusively as a director,

resources. I wonder what the future holds

teacher and choreographer warrants that

for on-going deeper inquiry into inclusive

one must be continually versatile and very

arts practice?

swift in adapting processes that suit each individual’s needs. I love the challenge

There is so much that the wider arts

being this inclusive presents. To enforce

community need to know about being

a single discipline, for instance, a purely

inclusive and the benefits it brings to

choreographic one based only on how

practice and process. In lieu of there

my body’s abilities function, would be

being no formal tertiary course catering

imposing and ethically unsound. This off-

specifically for artists living with dis-

the-cuff adaption process takes time to

ability, platforms like Catalyst Dance are

develop and a lot of patience and trial and

essential. When the independent artist

error. It also has beneficial properties in

also lives with disability, one’s resources

terms of developing versatility skills, and

are often stretched to near breaking point.

thus, more democratic leadership skills. It

Until we acknowledge the pressures the

can teach us to curate people’s needs as

groundswell independent arts sector is

opposed to only enforcing an unchallenged

under, we will not truly supersede the

set of choreographic principles. To this

restrictions placed on us as otherwise

end, the Catalyst Dance series has helped

prolific, exceptionally inventive individuals.

me formulate a much more versatile, fair

Platforms like Catalyst Dance are a vital

and mature inclusive performance making

human exchange system. We need more

and movement research process.

of them, now more than ever. I hope we can find another platform as incredibly

Inclusive skills development opportunities

valuable and beneficial for both leading

are very rare. Indeed, it is very sad to

practitioners and emerging artists alike,

hear that Catalyst has come to an end,

living with or without disability, that also

especially in a climate that is becoming

embrace and respect the wisdom of mature

increasingly more difficult to function as a

practice in the way Catalyst Dance has.

mature practitioner without infrastructural support and the decrease in Federal funding for the small to medium sector. It is difficult for independent artists, at any


Article Cover Image is Sea in Me by Dean Walsh as part of Catalyst Dance 2014, Accessible Arts. Photograph by Gisella Vollmer.


Catalyst Dance is an initiative of Accessible Arts



DEAN WALSH BIO Dean Walsh has been at the forefront

(scuba diving and marine science) into

of many significant shifts within the

his inclusive arts practice is entirely

Australian arts and cultural landscape.

unique. Utilising this, Dean directs

Between 1990 and 2008, he focused on

works, facilitates workshops, teaches

devising original solo and group works

at tertiary institutes and presents

that wrestled with unconventional

lecture-type demonstrations at arts

themes of queer identity, LGBTI themes

and environmental events. Within the

and cycles of violence. Some of these

arts and disability sector, he works with

appeared in festivals in Australia, the

RUCKUS ensemble, Murmuration, Epic

United Kingdom, Netherlands, Japan

Arts (Cambodia) and Accessible Arts

and New York. Dean has worked

(Catalyst Masterclasses 2011-2016).

for renowned companies, including

Dean also leads workshops for various

DV8 Physical Theatre (London), No

disability programs, NGO’s and at Sydney

Apology (Holland), Australian Dance

Community College.

Theatre, among many others. Since 2008, Dean has built a highly respected interdisciplinary and disabilityinclusive performance and research practice. His approach to bring marine environmental ecology and technologies




RITA MARCALO In 2009, I began a trilogy of works investigating my relationship to epilepsy. The first was ‘Involuntary Dances’ (2009), where I presented an epileptic seizure as performance. The second was ‘She’s Lost Control’ (2010), where I created an immersive performance allowing audiences to gain insight into my experience of having a seizure. The last instalment of the trilogy, ‘marcalorita’ (2014), was a film originally commissioned by the Live Art Development Agency (London) and Abrons Arts Centre (New York). This photo-essay, ‘Invisible Disability: Moving towards Disappearance’ is a reworking of that film.



RITA MARCALO Once upon a time there was a child (stick figure child lying in a cot) She was born with a head tumor, which was swiftly removed As a result she began having seizures Was diagnosed with epilepsy And was medicated for it. (Darkness) Years later there was an artist A body-artist (stick figure body-artist) The body-artist performed control, evidencing training And sometimes performed loss of control evidencing epilepsy. Body-Artist with a shock wave around her body) One is public taking place in theatres, the other is private taking place in toilets One understood as dance, the other understood as illness (Darkness)



In 2009 she presented the uncontrollable movement as dance in Involuntary Dances This was to be the first in a trilogy examining her relationship to epilepsy People seemed to have something to say about it Some people told her she could get a disabled persons railcard And so the disabled-body-artist was born (Stick figure disabled-body-artist in wheelchair) (Darkness) And then She’s Lost Control happened, the second in the trilogy There were some attempts at sketching out the third in the trilogy But none of the ideas felt right And so the disabled-body-artist decided to make work about other things in the world. (Darkness) And then in 2013 the disabled-body-artist had a breakdown. Or had something‌ She stayed in bed for days on end (Person in bed)



During this time she stopped doing a lot of things she previously did One of those things was taking her medication Her journey to getting better entailed psychotherapy (Triangle diagram with the words ‘brain/body’ on the top corner, ‘others’ on the left corner and ‘mind’ on the right corner’. She gradually opened up to the world again but was still not taking medication She didn’t know why (Person in wheelchair asking ‘?’) Through psychotherapy she learnt that what the mind thinks changes the physical structure of the brain (Brain thinking ‘mind and brain’) She wonders why she hasn’t yet had a seizure? (Person in wheelchair asking ‘?’) She wonders if the structure of her brain has somehow changed She wonders if she will have to return her disabled card (Disabled card with lines running through it crossing it out) She wonders if not taking medication might be the third in the trilogy: a sort of private performance to oneself She does not yet know (Darkness) Rita Marcalo


RITA MARCALO BIO Instant Dissidence is a Bradford, UK-based company, directed by Rita Marcalo. Rita’s practice began in dance/choreography and today, she collaborates with others to create work in different mediums. Rita brings various artists together, in different combinations, to realise numerous ideas and solve creative problems. Instant Dissidence’s is a socially-engaged practice where the company foregrounds the role that dance/choreography can play as a social engine. Using dance as a vehicle, they believe in expanding the understanding of the body beyond it being a transport system for the brain.





MICHELLE RYAN If you had asked me 25 years ago whether

of my belief in what these dancers can

I would be working in integrated dance

achieve, but also because I share a deep

practice, I would have said you were mad.

understanding with them. The physical

It didn’t seem like the natural career path.

desire to express something through

However, circumstances meant that this

a body that could potentially be seen

became my path. Not out of necessity,

as broken can be a powerful starting

but a natural progression and evolution

point and where beauty can be found in

of my own practice. Just because I have

difference. There was a reaction from

a disability, doesn’t mean I have lost the

people when I began performing after

urge to communicate as a dancer, I have

a ten-year hiatus and having acquired a

just found a different way to speak to

disability that I didn’t expect. For many

an audience. Initially, I thought I could

years following my diagnosis of Multiple

help young artists with disability, but I

Sclerosis, I carried around this misguided

have actually rediscovered myself as a

belief that people would not be interested

dancer and choreographer through my

in me as a dancer. I feared the response to

interactions with these artists.

my performance would be one of sadness or pity, but it was actually the complete

My involvement with integrated dance

opposite. Being back on stage meant that

has been an all encompassing journey

I was free from these misconceptions. It

that I have embraced not only because

is interesting to now be in a position that




Michelle Ryan in ‘Intimacy’ (created by Torque Show). Photograph by Rachel Roberts

allows me to share this freedom and give

response. It is dance in its most visceral

it to the artists that I work with at Restless

and authentic state. Artists with disability

Dance Theatre. This is a responsibility

need to become part of our cultural con-

I take very seriously. When creating a

versation. It goes beyond diversity. It is

new work, I employ the same process I

about a true description of our population

use with any dancer. The access point

and giving all audience members a chance

to create movement is always the same.

to be represented in the artistic landscape

It’s the responses that vary, and those

of this country. It is imperative integrated

responses are where the beauty lies;

dance and theatre maintains its integrity

the subtle readjustment of the torso to

of being world class and engages with

accommodate a shorter limb, the comic

collaborators of the highest standard.

timing that comes from having no ego,

Integrated theatre is not the ‘poor cousin’

the body describing a memory that the

of mainstream dance. It is just as important

eyes cannot see.

and valid as any other form of Australian theatre, offering significant opportunity for

When watching the Restless artists with

audiences to address their preconceived

disability on stage, what you are witnessing

ideals about what dance is, and how it fits

is a real representation of who the dancers

in with disability.

are. It is not a manufactured or contrived


A project I am currently working on as a Mentor is the Catalyst Dance Residency through Accessible Arts. It has attracted high calibre emerging artists with disability who were paired with nationally and internationally recognised leaders in integrated practice. These practitioners are not using disability as a way to get closer to mainstream arts, but demonstrate that artists with disability have the capacity to communicate their choreographic intent in a way that adds value to their vision. Ultimately, it has to be about the art, not about the ego. Pairing artists that utilise innovative practice with disability means both creators and dancers are learning reciprocally. The partnership and conversation between emerging and established artist is integral to the continued promotion of integrated dance. The mentor not only models career pathways and shares opportunities but also provides guidance and advice that is relevant and accessible. It is an exciting time as the next generation of artists emerge and find their individual creative voices.

Article Cover Photograph by Andy Rasheed of Restless Dance Theatre Artists.


MICHELLE RYAN BIO Michelle Ryan is a director, dancer and

Festival, at the Melbourne Malthouse

choreographer who has enjoyed a career

Theatre and the Adelaide Festival Centre in

in the arts for over 25 years. Joining

Torque Show’s ‘Intimacy’. In 2015, Michelle

Meryl Tankard in Canberra and Adelaide

was inducted into the South Australian

as part of Meryl Tankard’s Australian

Women’s Honour Roll, received an

Dance Theatre, she performed with them

Adelaide Critics Award and an Australian

for seven years followed by projects in

Dance Award. The film ‘Michelle’s Story’,

Europe as Tankard’s assistant, including

directed by Meryl Tankard, was screened

the Andrew Lloyd Webber’s West End

at the Adelaide Film Festival and received

Production, ‘The Beautiful Game’ and

3 South Australian Film Awards.

projects in Portugal and Sweden. On returning to Australia, Michelle co-founded

Splintergroup and worked at Dancenorth for five years in various capacities. In 2013, Michelle was appointed Artist Director of Restless Dance Theatre and has created two works for the company, ‘In the Balance’ and ‘Touched’. During this time, she performed in London at the Unlimited




DAN DAW The year 2015 has well and truly begun

The feeling of still having so far to go struck

and so too my BBC Performing Arts

me when participating in the ‘Dance and the

Fund Fellowship at South East Dance. I

Disabled Body’ symposium last November.

have announced a number of times how

Although interesting discussions were

incredible this opportunity is for me as

had, as a disabled artist it did worry me.

a disabled artist and how excited I am at

It worried me, because the conversations

being a part of such a supportive team.

were not at all dissimilar to those I was

Fifteen years into the 21st Century, I

having about dance and disability fifteen

look back at how far I have come in a

years before.

considerably short space of time, since ‘Millennium Fever’ swept the globe and we

Language played a part, perceiving the

all thought we were going to see Jesus

disabled body played a part, as did the

from afar and then self-combust. I think

notion that ‘disability dance’ in 2014 was

we thought we would be living in a world

at a ‘tipping point’. I struggled with this

reminiscent of Blade Runner.

as much then as I do now. Setting the expletive ‘disabled dance’ to one side –

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think we

some non-disabled leaders in the art form

thought (or at least, I thought) we might

mistakenly regarding it as a genre unto its

be a little further on in our discussions

own - we have the ‘tipping point’.

around dance, disability and aesthetics.


Dan Daw in dress rehearsal, rehearsing for his solo ‘BEAST’. Photograph by Zoe Manders

I would like to propose that ‘disabled dance’


has well and truly tipped with the founding

programs aim to commision work by disabled artists.

Established in 2012, the Unlimited Festival

of Candoco Dance Company1 by Celeste Dandeker and Adam Benjamin in 1991, the hosting of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012 in London, and not to mention its legacy in the establishment of the Unlimited Festival2. Even with these and other similar events, some believe we are still on this metaphorical verge. What cultural shift needs to happen for dance as an art form to include disability in its fabric? What needs to happen for disabled artists to join me down here and feel like they have tipped? Let’s start by doing the biggest plié of your lives and jump. It’s brilliant down here.

Article Cover Photograph by Nelson Rodriguez-Smith


Candoco Dance Company, founded in 1991, is a

company of disabled and non-disabled dancers. Candoco produces experiences for audiences and participants that challenge and broaden perceptions of art and ability, and place people and collaboration at the heart of their work.


DAN DAW BIO An Australian artist based in the UK, Dan has worked with Restless Dance Theatre (AUS), Australian Dance Theatre (AUS), Force Majeure (AUS), FRONTLINEdance (UK), Scottish Dance Theatre (UK), balletLORENT (UK), Candoco Dance Company (UK) and Skånes Dansteater (SWE). Currently working at the British Council and as the Associate Director of Murmuration, Sydney’s first professional integrated performance company, Dan is interested in producing ‘displays of practice’ with the exciting prospect that they can either ‘succeed’ or ‘fail’. The work he makes supports that both success and failure are valid and interesting. It supports that ‘success’ and ‘failure’ are actually the same thing and the difference between them arises through the perception of an audience.




KEEGAN SPRING As a graphic designer, or, more spec-

before it is illegible. They desire to make

ifically, a visual communicator, it is my

it as beautiful or visually rich as possible,

role to receive information, process

whilst still communicating the information

it, and ultimately, communicate it to a

that is required. This is how I have designed

desired audience visually. However, what

for the entirety of my design degree.

happens when visibility isn’t a luxury that

However, I am beginning to understand the

your audience has access to? What does

inherent selfishness within this approach

the visual communicator do then? Such

to design. It places the focus of the design

questions seemed foreign and alien to

onto the designer rather than the audience,

me, a third year design student who had,

ultimately, heralding the design to be a

prior to ‘Critical Dialogues’, only designed

reflection of the designer’s capabilities and

for university tutors and a spattering of

qualifications. This is best evidenced when

odd jobs here and there. None of which

designers are presented with a design

had ever required any consideration

problem or restriction that may hinder

of accessibility. This was a new and

the visual quality of the product they are

frightening design problem for me.

producing. Their reactions can vary from mild annoyance to feeling personally

For many graphic designers, their greatest

attacked and questioning how much the

design problem revolves around how far

client truly values design if they are asking

they can push the visuals of their design

to sacrifice visual elements.


If I am to be completely honest, initially, it

a black background due to the darkness

wasn’t easy to design in an accessible way.

surrounding the text giving the impression

There have been design problems that have

of shrinking the size of the words.

challenged the very manner with which I design projects. However, as I engaged with

I also avoided using text on top of images,

it and thought about it, I began to realise

as that can become difficult to follow,

that designing with accessibility wasn’t as

particularly if the image has a great deal of

difficult as I had considered it to be. There

differing highlights, shadows or colours.

are many different elements and factors that must be taken into consideration

By maintaining a consistent style

and I am certain that I have missed or

throughout the overall structure of the

misunderstood certain steps as I have

magazine, a flow and familiarity was

endeavoured to design an accessible and

achieved throughout the entire e-journal,

enjoyable e-journal. However, here are

making it much easier to navigate and

a few design choices that I have made

follow with confidence. For example,

with the intention of designing for a wider

placing the headers of the article in the

spectrum of people, with some of my

same place every time, using a rectangle to

decisions coming from the advice and

denote the beginning and the end of each

wonderful support that I received from

article and placing quotes in consistent

staff at Accessible Arts.

spots. These were all implemented with the intention of generating an enjoyable

Firstly, I enlarged the font size so that it can

and consistent experience for all viewers.

be read with greater ease for those who may have visual impairment or difficulties

In addition to this online journal,

reading. I enlarged the point size (points

another document was generated on

are a unit of measurement within typ-

Microsoft Word, which provides an audio

ography) from 8 or 9 pts to 12 pts, which

accompaniment to the piece, whilst also

at first glance may not appear to be

providing the clearest and most accessible

significant but in reality is quite a shift.

format to present information in.

This is 8 pt text.

After designing for ‘Critical Dialogues’,

This is 12 pt text.

I have discovered that I am really only dipping my toes into a richer and more

I also increased any font point size on black

vibrant world which embraces and includes

backgrounds as it is harder to read text on

all people. I do not claim to be an expert



and in order to truly understand how

there will be those that disagree with

to communicate to your audience, you

some of the decisions that I made. This

must be in a dynamic dialogue with your

is completely understandable. I may

audience. It is of utmost importance that

even disagree with myself in five years’

greater care and consideration should be

time. However, I have engaged, and am

devoted to engaging in and understanding

currently engaging, in the conversation.

how we can design in an accessible way

Yes, it has been a challenge. Yes, I had

so that both form and function can work in

to leave my comfort zone. But does this

conjunction with each other. There is only

mean the design community should simply

one way to enable such an outcome and

give up and just create a word document?

that is to start now.

Of course not! Such a response would be both lazy and insulting. If something is challenging, or does not necessarily

Article Cover Illustration by Keegan Spring

fit within your desired expectations, it does not mean that it is wrong. Why is it so difficult for designers to embrace the notion of accessible design? Are we too precious about our own designs and how they reflect our identities as designers that we have lost sight of why we design? I understand design to be, a facilitation of communication through conversation,



KEEGAN SPRING BIO Keegan Spring is currently studying a

this experience Keegan has been rewarded

Bachelor of Design in Visual Comm-

with a greater understanding of not only

unication at the University of Technology,

his own design capabilities but, most

Sydney and is in his third and final year.

significantly, the great importance of

He has a deep fascination in people, who

generating design outcomes that are

they are, what they think and why. This

accessible for all audiences.

desire to understand and empathise with people from all different walks of life has manifested itself in his interests in acting,

music and visual arts. Keegan understands design as a facilitation of communication through conversation; a conversation between the designer, the client and the desired audience. As a graphic design intern at Critical Path since August, Keegan has taken up the task of designing the layout and the visual and typographic elements within the e-journal ‘Critical Dialogues.’ Throughout


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