Critical Dialogues Issue 7 Claiming Spaces: Choreographers with disabilities redefining dance. September 2016 Artist Daniel Monks lying on the ground with his eyes closed as part of a piece directed by Sarah-Vyne Vassallo for Murmuration. Black and white. Photograph by Gisella Vollmer.
Critical Dialogues Issue 7................................................................................................1 Claiming Spaces: Choreographers with disabilities redefining dance.......................1 September 2016.....................................................................................................1 Content...........................................................................................................................2 Introduction...................................................................................................................3 Sarah-Vyne Vassallo...............................................................................................3 Sarah-Vyne Vassallo Bio.........................................................................................8 What is the Future of Institutional Dance?....................................................................9 Dan Daw.................................................................................................................9 Becoming Leaderful – A Personal Reflection...............................................................12 Kate Marsh...........................................................................................................12 References............................................................................................................18 Kate Marsh Bio.....................................................................................................18 Welly O’Brien Bio.................................................................................................18 PA A..............................................................................................................................19 Excerpts from the book............................................................................................19 Sonja Jokiniemi Intro............................................................................................19 Acknowledgments................................................................................................23 Sonja Jokiniemi Bio..............................................................................................23 An Atmosphere of Journeys - Catalyst Dance Residency.............................................25 Kate Maguire-Rosier.............................................................................................25 Kate Maguire-Rosier Bio.......................................................................................27 Hidden Abilities............................................................................................................29 Dissed or Otherwise.................................................................................................29 Dean Walsh..........................................................................................................29 Dean Walsh Bio....................................................................................................32 Invisible Disability: Moving towards Disappearance...................................................33 A Photo Essay with Transcript..................................................................................33 Rita Marcalo.........................................................................................................33 Rita Marcalo Bio...................................................................................................38 Diversity at the Forefront.............................................................................................39 Michelle Ryan.......................................................................................................39 Michelle Ryan Bio.................................................................................................41 Reaching the Tipping Point..........................................................................................42 Dan Daw...............................................................................................................42 Dan Daw Bio.........................................................................................................43 Designing Critical Dialogues for Accessibility – Challenging the Practice of Visual Communication............................................................................................................45 Keegan Spring.......................................................................................................45 Keegan Spring Bio.................................................................................................46
Murmuration Artists in a cluster all on different levels intertwined. One artist is centred and reaching out with her crutch. Black and white. Photograph by Gisella Vollmer.
Introduction Sarah-Vyne Vassallo
I write this introduction as a Sydney based NSW Australian artist and I want to pay homage to the many non-conventional artists and thinkers that have gone before us. Particularly in the historical dance lineage to the likes of the expressionists, the avant-garde artists, the modernists and post-modernists. Whilst there are too many names to mention, I fully understand that the ‘claiming of space’ is not a new concept and, in fact, has been the systemic ingredient for the evolution of the arts for hundreds of years. ‘The Critical Dialogues: Claiming Space’ e-journal has been inspired and curated with this in mind. Over the last 25 years, the professional practice of integrated contemporary dance has been building momentum in the United Kingdom and America. Currently in Australia, it is an ‘emerging’ area of practice. Whilst there have been many artists cultivating, developing and leading in this field for over a decade, it has only recently become recognised more publicly within the contemporary arts and cultural community. In 2010, I began working part-time for Accessible Arts as an Arts Development Manager in performing arts. With my area of practice being dance and theatre, I was given a long leash by the CEO, Sancha Donald, to explore what opportunities were available to people with disability to engage with contemporary dance in a professional environment. I spent my first 12 months conducting field work, research and interviews. Sadly, at this time there were no current opportunities or pathways
in place and this was why the Catalyst Dance program was birthed. Over the 6 years I have been directing this program, it has proven to activate, connect, expand and advocate for dancers with disability. It has cultivated professional pathways and linkages to some of Australiaâ€™s leading choreographers. It has supported artists and arts workers with and without disabilities in professional development and mentorships. It has reached new audiences and arts organisations, most of which were seeing integrated dance for the first time. The program grew from a state-based initiative into a national program in its final two years. In this publication, several authors reference the program as it has made significant contributions to the development of dance artists with disability and to the arts and disability sector at large in Australia.
Sarah-Vyne demonstrating a rolling task arm and leg stretched out along the floor a dozen students rolling behind her at the Murmuration arts and education day. Photograph by Gisella Vollmer.
My role at Accessible Arts and also the arts and disability community work I had been doing at the time, proved to impact me greatly by expanding my thinking and notion of who and what the performing arts is for. My interest and explorations as an artist were affected in the most positive ways. I began to work more intuitively and flexibly, which was both liberating and empowering. Over the past 30 years I have faced, managed and survived Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that has now developed into an anxiety disorder. And as fate would have it, eight years ago I was diagnosed with an incurable chronic illness. This is my lived experience of disability. This is what I identify to be my invisible disabilities. A lifetime of specialists, surgeries, therapies, self-care and chronic pain that has at times left me 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 very high-functioning and my conditions donâ€™t visibly present themselves, I am often trapped by these very qualities, perpetuating my condition and in turn not selfmanaging the best way that I should. This is a constant daily negotiation that I 4
consistently fall and rise from. It is through these lenses that I engage with the world, my arts practice and the artists and peers I work with. It is through these lenses that I began a journey in activating new creative spaces, breaking down barriers, and deeply desiring support, integration and inclusivity for all. Disability is an evolving spectrum. It currently affects 1 in 5 Australians, yet it still seems to be considered â€˜marginalisedâ€™. There are still many societal stigmas, and particularly for people with identifiable disabilities, there are still many barriers to even engage in everyday activities. I feel very privileged to be able to say that I have a career in the performing arts spanning 20 years. Over this time, I have worked as a performer, maker, director, choreographer, teacher and arts manager. As previously mentioned, for the past nine years I have been working in a particular field of arts practice that is known as many things. These terms are as diverse as the practitioners and their practice and demonstrate through language the various spaces being claimed. 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 Physically integrated dance Inclusive arts Social innovation Change makers Advocates Political artists And so on and so forth I could goâ€Ś Language rhetoric and identity politics has played an important role in promoting and educating society about what this field of arts practice is and might be. Over the past five to ten years, I have witnessed first-hand, significant changes in the recognition and inclusion of people with disability in the Australian political climate. This has in turn seen arts and disability policies and strategies develop, in many cases for the very first time. I understand that in society we need language and definitions and tick boxes to assist us in better understanding humanity at large, and that language serves many purposes. However, when it boils down to arts process and practice and when we are talking about artists making art, language can at times make things over complicated, confusing and even restrictive.
Artist points directly to the camera in the foreground. Two artists stand in the background, with one wrapping their arm and leg around the other. ‘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. Photograph by Gisella Vollmer.
With that being said, there is a conversation that has been unfolding for quite some time within this field, particularly with one of the United Kingdom’s leading arts program Unlimited and independent artists Marc Brew, Caroline Bowditch and many poignant conversations that I have had with some of the artists included in this publication. A conversation that I find far more relevant and interesting is the one regarding the culture of disability and consequently the sub-culture of artists with disability. As an artist, I find I am more comfortable talking about culture as it seems to be less definitive than the rhetoric of language. In the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability, it states that we need to ‘recognise that disability is an evolving concept’.1 Through my experiences, I have found this to be profoundly true. We don’t fit under one label. We can’t tick one box. There isn’t one inclusive arts method as there is no such thing as a one size fits all model. It is impossible to be an ‘expert’ in this field. We make room. We regenerate. We find new ways of doing, thinking and practicing and in some cases, we overturn what has been before. Why would we want to make a square peg fit in a round hole anyway? How boring. How tried and tested is that? So instead of ‘fitting within’, we claim the space that is and when needed, we propose, and make more room. We demand to move past the traditional constructs of Contemporary dance that we have been accustomed to in Western dance cultures. This progressive view of the arts landscape is the very core of what excites and liberates my arts practice daily. 1
Reference : United Nations, General Assembly, Convention on the Right of Persons with Disabilities. Preamble (e). A/61/611 (December 2006), available from undocs.org
In connecting with other artists who identify or have lived experiences of disability, I have truly found my tribe. They have opened up and activated areas of my creativity that had previously been unengaged. For me, the more diversity that is present in the room, the more my artistic self and practice makes sense to me. I am often working with people with cognitive developmental delays, neurological disorders, complex mental health conditions or different physical anatomies. Each person contributes by bringing their unique life experience and viewpoint, thus creating a radical creative environment. This space has sharpened my ability to be more intuitive, responsive and flexible and presented non-conventional ways of processing, problem solving and creative decision making. Together, this rich diversity creates unexpected and interesting art. A desired artistic starting place that most artists crave and seek out and for us, just is. Yes, it can be complex, unknown and challenging. But hasn’t history continually demonstrated over and over again that the birthing place of great ideas is often cultivated with the misfits, the fringe dwellers and those that aren’t always ‘seen’? Another area of contention that I am faced with on a regular basis is the idea that ‘integrated dance’ is exclusively community-based or a form of dance therapy, meaning that it is considered a ‘good cause’, or for recreational or therapeutic purposes only. I am often confronted and taken back with peoples’ overwhelming enthusiasm when I tell them I work with artists with and without disability. With the best of intentions, people often respond by saying, ‘oh wow, that’s so inspirational’ or ‘wow, I don’t know how you do it’, or ‘wow, that’s just so lovely that you can give back like that’. I am challenged by these preconceptions of who and what dance is for, and I don’t really know where to place these comments. Regardless of the best of intentions, it is these comments that continually remind me that we have a very long way to go in Australia before artists with disability are seen as part of and intrinsic to the artistic fabric that makes 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... ‘Dance, when you're broken open. Dance, if you've torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you're perfectly free. 2’ Jalaluddin Rumi Reference : ‘The Essential Rumi’ compiled and translated by Coleman Barks and published by HarperSanFrancisco (1994). 2
‘It is not important to understand what I am doing; perhaps it is better if they don’t understand, but just respond to the dance.’3 Kazuo Ohno 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. Sarah-Vyne 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. www.sarahvynevassallo.com www.murmuration.com.au
Dan Daw in research and development for BEAST. Pictured with choreographer, Martin Forsberg. Photograph by Graham Adey
Reference : ‘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). 3
What is the Future of Institutional Dance? Dan Daw’s Presentation at the Swedish National Dance Conference February 2015 Dan Daw
The following article are two pieces charting Australian artist Dan Daw’s continued development as a dance maker and curator during his fellowship year with the BBC and South East Dance4. It documents and offers insight into his modes of thought around practice, collaboration, dance company structures and disability dance. Dan Daw of Dan Daw Creative Projects offers an alternate perspective. Good afternoon fellow artists, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. I stand before you today as a man. I stand before you today as a gay man. I stand before you today as an Australian gay man. I stand before you today as an Australian gay disabled man. I stand before you today to say that all of those things led to my becoming a dancer; moving to the UK and dancing for Candoco Dance Company, then for Skånes Dansteater and being invited to this conference to ponder the question: ‘What is the future of institutional dance?’ This is a question I hold myself as a dancer who has worked, and is working, inside an institutional structure5. Spending long periods inside of this structure with Candoco, I became lost. Although I very much enjoyed touring and performing repertory work by Wendy Houstoun, Rachid Ouramdane and Trisha Brown (to name, but a few), there was still something missing. I felt I wanted more responsibility. Sure I led classes, taught workshops and spoke at press conferences, but that’s not what I craved. As a dancer, I craved artistic responsibility. As a dancer within an institution I had the question. ‘How can we, the dancers, have artistic responsibility for the work being commissioned by the companies we work for?’ I’d like to borrow those last three words ‘we work for’ and offer to you that we are the language we use. It has occurred to me now that rather than working ‘for’ institutions, I work ‘with’ institutions. This simple shift in language provokes a greater shift in attitude, approach and, indeed, culture. This sense of collaboration is exactly what I craved, but was not finding in instructional dance at the time. Invited as a guest artist at Skånes Dansteater, I made the conscious decision to work with them. This had led to me confidently being able Reference 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. 5 Reference : Refers to the structure or environment of a dance company or organisation. 4
to say I am an artist. Now I don’t say this to be pretentious or morally superior, but I do say this to highlight the sense of empowerment ‘taking artistic responsibility’ continues to give me. As an artist working with Skånes Dansteater, I landed on my feet. I was launched into a collaboration with Martin Forsberg, Jenny Nordberg, Chrisander Brun, Lidia Wos, Kang Ma and Sindri Runnude. We worked together to create ‘THE EXTENDED VERSION OF NOTHING’, which forms part of the company’s triple bill, M&M&M to be premiered here in 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 of BEAST. Photograph by Graham Adey.
For those of you familiar with Martin and Jenny’s work, you’ll know they work in a very concrete way and that function is used to arrive at form. If you’ve worked with Martin, you’ll also know that he will ask, ‘How was that for you?’ Being asked this question after every task and every run through made me accountable for my own artistry and made me ask of myself, ‘Why do I do what I do?’ and ‘Why do I make the creative choices I make?’ Inspired by this level of enquiry within our process, I knew quite early on I had to work with Martin and Jenny again. Taking the bull by the horns or ‘artistic responsibility’, if you will, I asked Martin and Jenny if they would consider collaborating with me further on the making of a new solo work, and expressing to them how much I enjoyed working with them. ‘Yes, we would love that,’ Martin and Jenny replied. It was from this reciprocated agreement over drinks and dinner that Dan Daw Creative Projects began. Under this umbrella, I work collaboratively with a growing
network of artists who interest me to develop new work for UK and international audiences. Taking this curatorial approach to work, I enjoy having autonomy in the creative process and directing others to direct me. I describe it as an audition in reverse; dissolving the only too familiar hierarchy between choreographer, creative team and performer. Investigative in my approach, I want to work towards commissioning a new body of work that: Is collaborative; Seeks to ask questions, not provide answers; Asks the audience to be active, not passive, in how they experience the work; Directly or indirectly acknowledges the stage and auditorium as one room – what is the audience’s relationship to me, as performer? And vice-versa. Why work in this way? In a blog I recently wrote in my capacity as a BBC Performing Arts Fund Fellow with South East Dance entitled ‘Reaching The Tipping Point’, I expressed my concern that ‘disability dance’ is viewed by many leaders (namely programmers) within the art form as a genre. This needs to shift. Shift beyond box ticking exercises and stopping the ‘they’re doing it so we don’t have to’ rhetoric. My question is, 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?
Kate Marsh extends her arms out. Film stills from ‘Becoming Leaderful’ by Kate Marsh
Becoming Leaderful – A Personal Reflection Kate Marsh
The following is an excerpt from Kate Marsh’s PhD thesis, ‘Taking Charge, Dance, Disability and Leadership: The Shifting Role of the Disabled Dance Artist’. The following section details a reflective account of a creative period shared between Kate and collaborator, Welly O’Brien. There was a cycle involving the raw filmed material and resulting rough-cut film. I saw my leadership evidenced in the progression of the work; the raw recordings demonstrated the decisions I was making about the dance. For instance, the costume would change from week one to week three or sections of the dance would be extended or cut. In editing the film, I was reminded of these processes, which at the time seemed inconsequential. The visual record provided the opportunity to see development ‘as it happened’. It was in reviewing the raw film that I began to make decisions not about what worked in terms of artistic output, but about consciously exploring my leadership ability. Creating a filmed record of the dance process significantly increased my awareness of authorship of the duet. Observing myself centrally located within the development of the dance gave me a strong sense of the work belonging to myself and Welly O’Brien. The concept of authorship is key to the experience of dancing and dance-making. The relationship between the dancer and authorship of their performed work is complex. The embodied or ‘lived’ experience of dancing resists formal definition, and as such, is difficult to classify as ‘belonging’ to anyone. If choreographic practice is a manifestation of the individual artist’s thoughts, performed versions are all 12
embodiments of such ideas (Pavis 2014). This is particularly pertinent in the case of our duet as it is the culmination of decades of conversations, shared thoughts, shared experiences and dancing together. It ‘feels’ highly personal and it ‘feels’ like ours. Through engaging in the process of making a new film based on the creative collaboration with O’Brien, I discovered, and what I want to assert here, is the important link between ownership, authorship and leadership. To be author and owner of one’s own creative work is integral to identifying as a leader. Conversely, feelings of not owning the work in which your body is a central instrument may be detrimental to feeling leaderful. In the process of making the film, this sense of ownership is brought into focus. I look back at my work and witness the details that I perceive as what makes it ‘ours’. I notice the movement vocabulary that I see as uniquely mine or the movement of mine and O’Brien’s bodies together, which looks to my editorial eye as a representation of our friendship. I can also see all of our creative research manifested in the film. For example, the scattered, rejected props in the frame signify our process of trial and selection. The easiness between us as we move and talk simultaneously while we remember or rehearse our ideas. It is strange to me that this work could be anything other than ‘mine’ or ‘ours’. We are the dance and the dance is us. In my perception they cannot exist independently. The rough-cut film seems to respond to this idea. In documenting the process I am cementing the duet, ‘Famuli’, as belonging to myself and O’Brien. It is crucial to note that although the live work is derived from my collaboration with O’Brien, I am the author of this work. It feels like a tangible artefact; a document that has the potential to speak for us. It is a visual representation of a process that led to a product. The film has become a central part of the creative narrative of the journey of our duet. It reiterates our relationship and nods to the different spaces we have worked in and the support we have received. It is proof of our research and our interrogation. All these factors strengthen my sense of the work as ‘mine’ and consequently my feelings of leadership and autonomy.
Film Stills from ‘Becoming Leaderful’ by Kate Marsh.
The cumulative process of applying for funds, researching, choreographing and dancing in the live and filmed elements of my collaboration with O’Brien could be perceived as a journey into leadership. I have trained and worked in dance for over two decades. During this time, I have performed, taught and taken part in discussions and symposia across a range of contexts. On paper I have been ‘doing’ leadership. In
philosophical terms, however, I have not perceived myself to be a leader. As O’Brien suggests in my discussions with her, in the act of teaching she can feel like she is ‘in charge’. This feeling echoes through my own experience of teaching and training others. My position as a disabled dancer means that I offer a unique perspective within a wider dance context, which has informed my self-perception as a person with knowledge and experience in a particular area. 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 dancers. In addition, they demonstrate to the art form overall that leadership is not restricted to non-disabled people in dance. This has informed the dichotomy of my own leadership. At times, I feel like a leader. I pursue my practice with a determination to lead and be autonomous in my dance endeavours. Conversely, I am often confronted with a sense of self-doubt when I am the only disabled person in a room, university, studio or theatre. The societal narrative of managing rather than succeeding or excelling that I have felt defined by reminds me of my perceived place, thereby raising an interesting issue regarding the theory and practice of leadership development in dance. There have been a number of initiatives in dance over the previous two decades including those by, Candoco6, Coventry University7, Trinity Laban8 and GDance9 in the UK. These have centred on access and inclusion. And certainly when I have attended, there are shared ideologies of equal participation and access to dance training and practice. However, this is problematic when confronted by the wider contemporary dance field. As a sector, we can talk about improving access and opportunity, but as is evidenced by a lack of disabled leaders in dance, are we really prepared to imbed these ideologies in our practice? Through the production of a reflective film, I was not dependent on an experienced non-disabled dance practitioner to assist in the editing or decision making about Reference : Candoco Dance Company is the company of disabled and non-disabled dancers, founded in 1991. Candoco produces excellent and profound experiences for audiences and participants that excite, challenge and broaden perceptions of art and ability, and place people and collaboration at the heart of their work. 7 Reference : 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. 8 Reference : 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. 9 Reference : 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. 6
what I should show and what I should omit. This gave me a unique opportunity to project myself as a leader. This is a feeling that has emerged over the course of this research. Myself, and my experience have been central to the study. The research has provided me with a formal framework for questioning my own position in dance. With each conference I attend or meeting I am involved in, I feel an opportunity to self-observe. Noting my reaction and response, I am using the research as a moment to make a leader of myself or make others see me as leaderful. In editing the film, I am able to make an interesting observation as I see myself reflected on film. The ‘I’ that is editing and choosing can decide how I want to present myself to others. My film is also an opportunity to shift the ‘usual’ viewing of my impairment as uncontrolled by me to purely sharing myself as I am in the moment. As I select the clips for the rough cut, it becomes clear that although the process of editing offers me significant control, the viewing of this film is beyond my control. The audience is free to pause, rewind, fast-forward and zoom in and out. This is a liberating experience, because I will not witness the response or experience the staring encounter. I am more bold with the body that I project in the film. There is a body honesty that seems more illusive in live performance. I can show my stump, my non-hand, my left arm (none of these terms are satisfactory, because my hand is my hand, so any other name is hard to find, and somehow the term ‘hand’ does not seem sufficient here) to the viewer. I can use the film to share my vulnerability and my strength. For example, I re-watch a moment where I am holding a balloon filled with helium during a rehearsal. The studio had very high ceilings and the manager of the space informed us that if the balloons floated up there, they would never get them down. In this moment the camera had been left on as we recorded the day’s rehearsal. I lost my grip on the ribbon holding the balloon and as it floats away, I saw myself jumping up, laughing in an attempt to retrieve the balloon. I then observe my expression, my eyes and body language indicate a shared moment with O’Brien (she is not visible on the film, but I know that I am directing my disbelief at her and she is reflecting it back to me). This moment is one of my favourites in the film as it speaks clearly to my working and personal relationship with O’Brien. In terms of our collaboration, it also indicates that as artists, we have in that scenario achieved our objective; that this process would not take itself too seriously and that we would strive to maintain a focus on creating a duet that was about the real us and our real bodies.
Kate and Welly in ‘Famuli’. Welly holds on to Kate’s neck as Kate pushes her away Kate and Welly in ‘Famuli’. Photograph by Matthew Niemc.
The following section presents a description of ‘Famuli’ from my perspective. Informal modes of writing are employed to provide insight into the personal nature of the practice and my immediate response to it. Downstage there is a single bench. O’Brien sits on the edge of the bench looking away from the point where I enter. I walk slowly 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. I unravel the ribbon and move towards O’Brien where I tie the balloon to a metal ring and place it on the floor. The helium filled balloon suspends next to the bench. I sit at the opposite end of the bench facing the audience. Leading with my left arm, I scan the audience by moving my outreached arm from left to right. As I do this, I am aware of the demand I am making of them to look at me, at my hand, or where my hand ‘should’ be. I am asking the audience to see me, to see the whole me. I am deliberately making my disability part of the movement, not because I want to make a statement about 16
disability, but because it is part of my body, and therefore, part of my dancing. This seems even more significant when O’Brien and I perform our missing limbs duet together. At one point she shoves my face with her shorter leg. In the process and performance of this moment, we know we are challenging assumptions about impairment and the way in which audiences view us. O’Brien and I do these things because we can and because we are not restricted by an agenda of ‘performing normal’ or being ‘inspiring’. In the work we make together, impairment is integral to the dance. We are consciously un-covering ourselves and this feels both empowering and vulnerable. In order to progress in dance, impairment must be manageable. The demands of a long choreographic process followed by touring and often teaching are not accommodating to fatigue, pain or in some instances medical appointments or intervention. Mainstream UK contemporary dance is a highly competitive environment that develops and shifts quickly in terms of both training and professional practice. Disabled dancers are often expected to slot into this environment and attempt to fit into codified frameworks of language, body and choreographic vocabulary. This environment takes little account of differentiation between all dancers. The presence of disabled artists undermines Contemporary dance’s traditional agenda for sameness. To recognise one’s disability and to ask for adaptation or acknowledgement of the specifics of your body and its requirements places the disabled dancer in a vulnerable position. In a world where people and organisations are competing for a limited amount of funding and opportunity, it is difficult to ask for more or a different way of working without appearing weak or being perceived through a lens of trauma and need. There are some examples of funding and opportunity given to disabled artists that is fitted to meet their needs; e.g. personal assistants, accessible accommodation, sign language interpretation are among a number of additional factors. These ‘accommodations’ are still rare in the Contemporary dance sector. Such fractional support for disabled artists means that externally it can appear they are well supported to perform and make dance in a way that accounts for them as individuals. Until all funding includes support that allows appropriate access and development, disabled dancers will remain extra and peripheral to ‘normal’ dancing. In the research, film and performance of the duet with O’Brien, I have felt less restricted by the constraints of presumptions and norms in dance than I have felt in my past career. I am liberated from my personal need to adhere to stereotypes of how disabled dance artists should look or perform. It must be noted here that this is a result of many factors. Working concurrently on my practice and my doctoral research, which are sometimes interrelated, has led to me encountering new environments and shaping a new position for myself in dance. This freedom has enabled me to be inside my own work as a leader and also to reflect back and see myself emerging as leaderful. I am not ‘fitting in’ to a prescribed ideology of leadership in dance.
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 Bio
Kate Marsh is a dance artist whose practice includes teaching in a range of settings, on-going research and performance. In 2009, Kate completed a Masters in Dance by Independent study at DeMontfort University (Improvisation and Widening Participation in Dance). This sparked an interest in dance research, which has informed her teaching and choreographic projects. Kate undertook a fulltime PhD studentship at Coventry University, which she completed May 2016. Kate’s doctoral research examines the shifting role of the disabled dance artist with a focus on the development of dancers with an impairment undertaking leading roles in the sector. Kate’s current performance/research project is an on-going collaboration with Welly O’Brien, including their duet ‘Famuli’. Welly O’Brien Bio
Welly O’brien started dancing after losing her leg in 1994, training formally with Candoco Dance Company in 1998 on an Arts Council England bursary. In 2000, Welly joined the company full time and toured for 4 years. After starting a family, she returned to dance as a freelance dancer and teacher. In addition to working as a Candoco, Associate Artist, Welly has worked with Graeae Theatre Company, Frontline Dance, Scarebeus, la Aerial Theatre, Fura Dels Baus and Wired Aerial. She is currently touring with Caroline Bowditch’s, ‘Falling in Love with Frida’ and performing and working in collaboration with Kate Marsh’s research and duet called ‘Famuli’. Welly loves every aspect of performing, whether it is theatre based, site-specific or outdoor, as each experience brings different textures and qualities into her work.
PA A Excerpts from the book Sonja Jokiniemi Introduction
The purpose of the PA A book is to share imprints, memories, mappings, conversations and individual languages notated throughout my creative process. I strongly believe that languages escape definitions and should be a more prominent and visible part of our society because each one of us has a relationship to language that is intimate. In these languages, I see immense poetic resources. We are always hovering between knowing and not-knowing. Linguistic thinking in its diverse forms is a way in which patterns of our relationality to the seemingly outside world can be expressed and experienced. I have been interested in subjective language systems in my artistic research for some time. I wanted to look at language in a state of becoming: language that consists of vocal, haptic, textual and movement acts and language that is in a constant existential process in relation to things around and within. In my projects, I attempted to bring validation to the subjectivity of language: to the many diverse aesthetic forms that it takes and where the language of an individual rises to be equally valid and intellectual as the collectively used system. I started to work with communities outside of the art field in a self-initiated artistic research project called, ‘Without an Alphabet’.10 I wanted to engage with people who use alternative communication methods in their daily life, or who nearly only use languages that in a way escape from the definition of language itself. I 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. 11 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 10
Reference : ‘Without an Alphabet’ project has been made in collaboration with Louhumäki and Maljapuro Activity Centre and Savolanniemi Housing Association. The project was produced by Eastern Finland Regional Dance Centre. One of the background inspirations for this project has been videowork by Amanda Baggs titled, ‘In my Language’. 11
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.
Alphabet of Petri and Words from Veera: English alphabet with symbols above each letter showing a new alphabet. 1Petri was one of four collaborators from LouhumĂ¤ki Activity Centre in Kuopio. Veera was a collaborator from Maljapuro Activity Centre.
Loose Notations 1 and 2: Squiggles and circles and other symbols are written out in a sentence like format. Each of the six symbols that appear in the loose notations is representative of different sounds and actions. Symbol 1: Raising the voiceâ€™s pitch during the sound. Symbol 2: The rustle of paper. Symbol 3: Foot stamps and/or rhythm. Symbol 4: Whistling breath. Symbol 5: Intensive vibration of paper. Symbol 6: Rubbing and moving paper along the surface of the table.
Sound map: Diagram of an arm with different points of touch up and down the arm. Graph showing the pitch of a voice rising. Two people with fingers interlaced. Text underneath these pictures says: â€˜this was one way of practicing and perceiving movement together: to create sound and movement communication maps based on touch. Each touch correlated with pitch and rhythm. For instance, by
touching the arm, the voice’s pitch could rise in a step-like manner or slide fluently, depending on the quality of the touch. As touches were repeated, the voice also repeated. Through exploration and variation of these principles, we created harmonically and haptically colourful mappings.
On Wanting: Person with no legs and arms raised above their head, with an accompanying text beside the picture. Text reads: 1. Can we finish soon? Can we already finish soon? 2. Not yet. Shall we think of a number to decide how many times we will do? 1. Mhhhm… 2. So you say 15 different movements. 1. No but isn´t it too much. Isn´t that 15 too much. Should it be less? 2. No. Well 10. 1. No but isn’t that too much. Isn´t that too much too? 2. No it´s not. 1. Noo, yes it is too much. 2. 8. 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. 2. I want! 1. No you don´t! 2. Could we agree on this? 1. No we cannot. We cannot. 2. We did this a really long time last time. 1. When? 2. Well when it was just two of us. 1. Two of us. 2. Mmh... We did it for so long, and we said at least 30 things. 1. Now I will not say very many. 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!
I hope that this small booklet is a good memory for those that were involved in the project as well as inspiring read to those encountering this material for the first time. Thank you to my collaborators for your beautiful languages that I have 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. 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 ‘Without an Alphabet’. www.sonjajokiniemi.com
A creature made of a mound of tiny circles and two big eyes from the text ‘PA A’ by Sonja Jokiniemi.
Choreographer Marc Brew at the Catalyst Dance Residency at Critical Path 2016. Photograph by Gisella Vollmer
An Atmosphere of Journeys - Catalyst Dance Residency Kate Maguire-Rosier
Since 2011, the Catalyst Dance program has reinforced a recognised industry need to ‘provide high quality skills development and training for dance practitioners, with and without disability working across the arts sector’.12 In August 2016, the final stage of the national Catalyst Dance Residency took the form of a Choreographic Research Lab. The creative team comprised fourteen artists in residence, four assistant artists and two lead choreographers. Specifically, participants included Joshua Campton, Tara Coughlan, Chris Dyke, Elle Evangelista, Jianna Gourgiou, Zakaria Ghomri, Kayah Guenther, Lorcan Hopper, Matthew Massaria, Max McAuley, Annabel Saies, Charlie Smith, Allycia Staples and Karen Veldhuizen, facilitated by David Baker, Margot Politis, Matt Shilcock and Melinda Tyquin, and led by international artist Marc Brew (Artistic Director of Marc Brew Company) and Sydneybased artist Sarah-Vyne Vassallo (Artistic Director of Murmuration). Vassallo has been instrumental in identifying the need for a professional development program like Catalyst, having national reach, but situated in NSW and tailored to suit the shifting needs in the sector. The focus of the lab was to provide training in choreographic research and development methods for the emerging and early career artists. Dancers with 12
Reference : Catalyst Dance is an initiative of Accessible Arts, see ‘About’. Online: http://aarts.net.au/catalystdance/
disability radically extend the notion of dance and more importantly, they do this on their terms. On the first day, Brew and Vassallo asked the participants: ‘What does choreography mean to you?’ Responses ranged from the pulse of traffic lights to one’s intention. With an emphasis on process rather than outcomes, the choreographers drew on their respective methods. Brew, a dancer with disability himself, aims to ‘redefine expectations of physicality for all performers’.13 Over the course of six days, Brew tasked the dancers with, for example, exploring comfortable and uncomfortable shapes, learning a movement phrase to ‘manipulate and make your own’ guided by a palette of specific options to change dynamic, order or boundaries as well as group work. In group tasks, Brew advised the participants to explore partnering, bodily contact, sharing weight across different body parts, spatial patterns, transitions, engaging different body parts to escape an area and finding something in the room to use as a prop. In one instance, dancers incorporated a scroll of butcher’s paper which immediately became personified as it reacted to its treatment, springing back after being unravelled or protesting with loud scrunches as it was rolled up in haste. Dancers responded to the seemingly alive prop with bodily expressions of frustration, surprise and finally, triumph. Drawing on devised processes rather than set material, Vassallo, who identifies with invisible disability, seeks ‘interesting ways to take ordinary human experiences...’ 14 She encourages dancers to allow ideas to be ‘informed by their unique physicalities and individuals modes of thinking’.15 Exposing the artists to a variety of stimuli including visually rich paintings, pearl-white stones, a reading of Dr. Suess and multicoloured balls of yarn, Vassallo invited dancers to respond verbally in group brainstorms. All within strict timeframes, she gave participants five minutes to individually workshop and transform their responses into movement. Dancers then selected one stimulus and developed a movement phrase in collaboration with others who chose likewise. The result was four vastly different choreographies with Vassallo working as an outside eye. One duet presented by Zakaria Ghomri and Elle Evangelista was memorable: In the middle of a square metre defined by masking tape, a slight man holds a slightly taller woman under her arms in a standing spoon embrace. She rises on tippy-toes, leans awkwardly before falling. He catches her and steers her balance, his hands touching the top of her shoulders and then underneath, her armpits. She shakes something off exiting the square, breathing audibly, as if trying to get rid of ants in her pants. Intermittently, he says ‘Go!’ and pushes parts of her body. She pulls away from each push before rolling away entirely. He follows, dragging her back to the 13
Reference : Excerpt from Catalyst 2016 private showing program notes. See also online: http://www.marcbrew.com/marc-brew-company/biography/ 14
Reference : Excerpt from Catalyst 2016 private showing program notes.
Reference : Ibid.
confined space. She stands, her eyes half open, half absent. He starts again: ‘Go!’ This time, she soars up puncturing the space with constricted pin jumps, slapping her thighs as her body urgently suspends in mid-flight. He is always on her tail. At the private sharing, one dancer from this duet asked the audience: ‘What’s beyond the box?’ Someone commented, ‘trust’ and ‘pushing the boundaries’ to which another spectator agreed adding, ‘but I’m also there for you…’ Others asked questions back: ‘What is in the box?’ A safe place? Homebase? A meeting place? For someone else, it ‘changed every time’ and for another, it was like a ‘window, looking through glass’. For Vassallo, audience feedback seemed as integral to the choreographic process as the devised material. ‘Integrated dance’ is not a genre. Perhaps, at best it denotes, like any innovative approach to dance, a movement within Contemporary dance. It is not necessarily about disability, nor is it forcibly practised by those who identify with disability, but it is always – visibly or invisibly – inflected by lived experiences of disability. In observing participants create work, I feel a struggle, like choreographer and scholar Margaret Ames, ‘to find adequate words to describe the cultural knowledge they express’.16 Catalyst nourishes and celebrates this movement in contemporary dance practice. However, this year represents the final iteration of the program. Similar opportunities are paramount to sustain artistic practice and ensure the availability 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. www.murmuration.com.au/artists/katemaguirerosier/
Reference : Ames, Margaret. ‘Dancing Place/Disability’. Theatre Research International 40 (2015): 170-185. 16
Dean Walsh and other artists blow balloons on stage in ‘Sea in Me’ by Dean Walsh as part of Catalyst Dance 2014, Accessible Arts. Photograph by Gisella Vollmer.
Hidden Abilities Dissed or Otherwise Dean Walsh
Hi, I’m Dean Walsh and I’ve lived with dance for the past 26 years. Unlike numerous contemporaries of my generation and calibre, I have never had a fulltime company of my own, and thus, no promotional machine to consistently herald my works, ideas, research or overall arts (dance based) practice to a wider audience. To be transparent for a moment, I also do not possess the ability to maintain such a company, at least not under the current expectations and pressures one must operate by as an artistic director. To do so, I would require substantial support and within an acutely inclusive understanding of ongoing interpersonal operations. I would need an infrastructure populated by colleagues versed in, and willing to take into account the needs of someone living with autism. I would love to have my own fulltime company to satiate and platform my endless creative drives, research and communication interests. Somewhere to communicate this boundless energy of ideas and my embodied environmental inquiries an allinclusive working environment. But, I would have to define and ask someone for a commitment to a quite different working relationship than would be considered standard, or that awful word ‘normal’ modus operandi. A pipe dream idealism, perhaps, but one that is worth articulating and striving for nonetheless.
The development of professional inclusive arts practice is in its infancy in Australia. However, it has recently become more supported by major funding agencies. As we continue to articulate and demonstrate the needs of the sector over coming years, I hope such infrastructural leadership inclusions may be more adequately supported allowing disability-led inclusive practice to thrive. For example, I am an exceptionally abled body person but my neurological condition can cause me to shut down when overloaded by the many administrative pressures amidst the performance making process. Training programs that educate more co-workers who can support leading practitioners living with disability fulfil their creative visions is also needed. In fact, people with disability who are not interested in being artists but love the arts and show interest in arts administration could make brilliant and insightful contributions to an inclusive artistic team. This could work as an empowering environment within the appropriate work ethic whilst embracing true integration. Many people living on the spectrum are phenomenally creative people. However, too many of them choose not to participate in activities within the arts because of the lack of understanding and unconscious prejudice around how we function – or temporarily dysfunction. If you are high on the spectrum and non-verbal, then your chances are even slimmer of being truly embraced and understood. I am changing this. So, now I’ll re-introduce myself. Hi, I’m Dean Walsh and I often live within an overload of pictures and problem-solving equations going on in my head with far too many sensations presenting themselves to me at any one time. Call me an expert of motion pictures because, honey, I have a cinema full in my head. For many years my autism was hidden behind (and exacerbated by) complex trauma disorder (CTD) – another debilitating condition that doesn’t get nearly enough airtime in dance when it comes to inclusion or exclusion zones. I could write a thesis on this topic alone! One island in the sea of misconceptions for me has been the Catalyst Dance 17 series that I have been involved in since its inception. The series offered a platform that enabled dialogue around so many matters and pressing concerns within the arts and disability sector, just as much as it enabled collaborations between experienced and non-experienced artists living with diverse-abilities. It also provided a platform for deepening interpersonal relationships that had not previously been possible in the inclusive arts sense. Catalyst has been a choreographic and performance platform that functioned within the context of greater inclusive arts sector development, and thus, created a network of artists wishing to more broadly communicate the needs of artists living with disabilities – whether those are in plain sight or hidden from view. For me, participating in Catalyst as a choreographer and workshop facilitator provided an extension on my research into developing an all-inclusive embodied marine environmental awareness practice methodology. It has been an invaluable and intrinsic platform for me over the last five years in developing the inclusive aspects of my movement research. Reference : Catalyst Dance is an initiative of Accessible Arts see arts.net.au/catalystdance/ 17
In 2007, I started scuba diving and on my very first dive I had an epiphany. I was suddenly bombarded with images, possibilities and methods of how I could incorporate subaquatic experiences into my dance practice. In fact, I couldn’t wait to resurface and get started. Since then, I have been building an interdisciplinary and disability-inclusive research and performance making practice that has embodied environmental awareness communication at its core. My approach to bringing marine environmental ecology and technologies (marine science and scuba diving) into inclusive arts practice, through embodied application, is entirely unique. I call this research-led practice ‘PrimeOrderly’. It embodies rigorous practical and theoretical inquiry of both inclusive arts and environmental science research findings. I rely on my SCUBA diving practice as an experiential means to embody the realms I wish to draw my research from. ‘PrimeOrderly’ is so named for its synergistic potential in new collaborative beginnings and research exchange between the disability, performing arts and marine science communities. Utilising this, I carry out research sessions, direct inclusive performance works, facilitate workshops, teach dance and composition at various tertiary institutes and present lecture-type demonstrations at arts and environmental science events. I enjoy engaging diverse and marginalized community groups and individuals because I love empowering people, especially those who, for whatever reason, feel excluded. Catalyst played a substantial role in developing the inclusive aspects of ‘PrimeOrderly’ research by affording me time and space to work with large groups of people living with vastly diverse abilities, many of them experts in their own right in living through systems of exclusion. I enjoy being part of this new wave of inclusive dance practice experimentations and discovery. Catalyst Dance has helped in making ‘PrimeOrderly’ a methodology that everybody can participate in – which was my interest all along. Without this platform, I would not have been able to fast track some of my inclusive movement inquiries to the degree I have. I plan to continue developing the transformative effects ‘PrimeOrderly’ has had on people living with diverse abilities, and extend its potential as an inclusive environmental awareness practice, for many years to come. Working truly inclusively as a director, teacher and choreographer warrants that one must be continually versatile and very swift in adapting processes that suit each individual’s needs. I love the challenge being this inclusiveness presents. To enforce a single discipline, for instance, a purely choreographic one based only on how my body’s abilities function, would be imposing and ethically unsound. This off-the-cuff adaption process takes time to develop and a lot of patience and trial and error. It also has beneficial properties in terms of developing versatility skills, and thus, more democratic leadership skills. It can teach us to curate people’s needs as opposed to only enforcing an unchallenged set of choreographic principles. To this end, the Catalyst Dance series has helped me formulate a much more versatile, fair and mature inclusive performance making and movement research process.
Inclusive skills development opportunities are very rare. Indeed, it is very sad to hear that Catalyst has come to an end, especially in a climate that is becoming increasingly more difficult to function as a 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 point in their career, to engage with so many diverse participants, to the degree Catalyst Dance enabled, due to a lack of resources. I wonder what the future holds for on-going deeper inquiry into inclusive arts practice? There is so much that the wider arts community need to know about being inclusive and the benefits it brings to practice and process. In lieu of there being no formal tertiary course catering specifically for artists living with disability, platforms like Catalyst Dance are essential. When the independent artist also lives with disability, oneâ€™s resources are often stretched to near breaking point. Until we acknowledge the pressures the groundswell independent arts sector is under, we will not truly supersede the restrictions placed on us as otherwise prolific, exceptionally inventive individuals. Platforms like Catalyst Dance are a vital human exchange system. We need more of them, now more than ever. I hope we can find another platform as incredibly valuable and beneficial for both leading practitioners and emerging artists alike, living with or without disability, that also embrace and respect the wisdom of mature practice in the way Catalyst Dance has. Dean Walsh Bio
Dean Walsh has been at the forefront of many significant shifts within the Australian arts and cultural landscape. Between 1990 and 2008, he focused on devising original solo and group works that wrestled with unconventional themes of queer identity, LGBTI themes and cycles of violence. Some of these appeared in festivals in Australia, the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Japan and New York. Dean has worked for renowned companies, including DV8 Physical Theatre (London), No Apology (Holland), Australian Dance Theatre, among many others. Since 2008, Dean has built a highly respected interdisciplinary and disability-inclusive performance and research practice. His approach to bring marine environmental ecology and technologies (scuba diving and marine science) into his inclusive arts practice is entirely unique. Utilising this, Dean directs works, facilitates workshops, teaches at tertiary institutes and presents lecture-type demonstrations at arts and environmental events. Within the arts and disability sector, he works with RUCKUS ensemble, Murmuration, Epic Arts (Cambodia) and Accessible Arts (Catalyst Masterclasses 2011-2016). Dean also leads workshops for various disability programs, NGOâ€™s and at Sydney Community College.
Invisible Disability: Moving towards Disappearance A Photo Essay with Transcript 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 re-working of that film.
Once upon a time there was a child (stick figure child lying in a cot) She was born with a head tumour 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 Sheâ€™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 somethingâ€Ś 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. www.instantdissidence.co.uk
Photograph by Andy Rasheed of Restless Dance Theatre Artists.
Diversity at the Forefront Michelle Ryan
If you had asked me 25 years ago whether I would be working in integrated dance practice, I would have said you were mad. It didnâ€™t seem like the natural career path. However, circumstances meant that this became my path. Not out of necessity, but a natural progression and evolution of my own practice. Just because I have a disability, doesnâ€™t mean I have lost the urge to communicate as a dancer, I have just found a different way to speak to an audience. Initially, I thought I could help young artists with disability, but I have actually rediscovered myself as a dancer and choreographer through my interactions with these artists. My involvement with integrated dance has been an all encompassing journey that I have embraced not only because of my belief in what these dancers can achieve, but also because I share a deep understanding with them. The physical desire to express something through a body that could potentially be seen as broken can be a powerful starting point and where beauty can be found in difference. There was a reaction from people when I began performing after a ten-year hiatus and having acquired a disability that I didnâ€™t expect. For many years following my diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis, I carried around this misguided belief that people would not be interested in me as a dancer. I feared the response to my performance would be one of sadness or pity, but it was actually the complete opposite. Being back on stage meant that I was free from these misconceptions. It is interesting to now be in a position that allows me to share this freedom and give it to the artists that I work with at Restless Dance Theatre. This is a responsibility I take very seriously. When creating a new work, I employ the same process I use with any dancer. The access
point to create movement is always the same. It’s the responses that vary, and those responses are where the beauty lies; the subtle readjustment of the torso to accommodate a shorter limb, the comic timing that comes from having no ego, the body describing a memory that the eyes cannot see.
Michelle Ryan in ‘Intimacy’ (created by Torque Show). Photograph by Rachel Roberts
When watching the Restless artists with disability on stage, what you are witnessing is a real representation of who the dancers are. It is not a manufactured or contrived response. It is dance in its most visceral and authentic state. Artists with disability need to become part of our cultural conversation. It goes beyond diversity. It is about a true description of our population and giving all audience members a chance to be represented in the artistic landscape of this country. It is imperative integrated dance and theatre maintains its integrity of being world class and engages with collaborators of the highest standard. Integrated theatre is not the ‘poor cousin’ of mainstream dance. It is just as important and valid as any other form of Australian theatre, offering significant opportunity for audiences to address their preconceived ideals about what dance is, and how it fits in with disability. 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 39
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. Michelle Ryan Bio
Michelle Ryan is a director, dancer and choreographer who has enjoyed a career in the arts for over 25 years. Joining Meryl Tankard in Canberra and Adelaide as part of Meryl Tankard’s Australian Dance Theatre, she performed with them for seven years followed by projects in Europe as Tankard’s assistant, including the Andrew Lloyd Webber’s West End Production, ‘The Beautiful Game’ and 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 Festival, at the Melbourne Malthouse Theatre and the Adelaide Festival Centre in Torque Show’s ‘Intimacy’. In 2015, Michelle was inducted into the South Australian Women’s Honour Roll, received an Adelaide Critics Award and an Australian Dance Award. The film ‘Michelle’s Story’, directed by Meryl Tankard, was screened at the Adelaide Film Festival and received 3 South Australian Film Awards. restlessdance.org
Dan Daw stretching out his arms performing the work-in-progress sharing of ON ONE CONDITION at Danscentrum Syd, Malmö Photograph by Nelson Rodriguez-Smith.
Reaching the Tipping Point South East Dance Blog – April / May 2015 Dan Daw
The year 2015 has well and truly begun and so too my BBC Performing Arts Fund Fellowship at South East Dance. I have announced a number of times how incredible this opportunity is for me as a disabled artist and how excited I am at being a part of such a supportive team. Fifteen years into the 21st Century, I look back at how far I have come in a considerably short space of time since ‘Millennium Fever’ swept the globe and we all thought we were going to see Jesus from afar and then selfcombust. I think we thought we would be living in a world reminiscent of Blade Runner. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think we thought (or at least, I thought) we might be a little further on in our discussions around dance, disability and aesthetics. The feeling of still having so far to go struck me when participating in the ‘Dance and the Disabled Body’ symposium last November. Although interesting discussions were had, as a disabled artist it did worry me. It worried me, because the conversations were not at all dissimilar to those I was having about dance and disability fifteen years before.
Language played a part, perceiving the disabled body played a part, as did the notion that ‘disability dance’ in 2014 was at a ‘tipping point’. I struggled with this as much then as I do now. Setting the expletive ‘disabled dance’ to one side – some nondisabled leaders in the art form mistakenly regarding it as a genre unto its own - we have the ‘tipping point’.
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 of Candoco Dance Company18 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 Festival. 19 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. 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 Reference : 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. 19 Reference : Established in 2012, the Unlimited Festival commissions programme aims to embed work by disabled artists within the cultural sector, reach new audiences and shift perceptions of disabled people. Unlimited is delivered by Shape Arts and Artsadmin. It is funded by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, Arts Council of Wales and Creative Scotland. 18
thing and the difference between them arises through the perception of an audience. www.dandawcreativeprojects.co.uk
Designing Critical Dialogues for Accessibility – Challenging the Practice of Visual Communication Keegan Spring
As a graphic designer, or, more specifically, a visual communicator, it is my role to receive information, process it, and ultimately, communicate it to a desired audience visually. However, what happens when visibility isn’t a luxury that your audience has access to? What does the visual communicator do then? Such questions seemed foreign and alien to me, a third year design student who had, prior to ‘Critical Dialogues’, only designed for university tutors and a spattering of odd jobs here and there. None of which had ever required any consideration of accessibility. This was a new and frightening design problem for me. For many graphic designers, their greatest design problem revolves around how far they can push the visuals of their design before it is illegible. They desire to make it as beautiful or visually rich as possible, whilst still communicating the information that is required. This is how I have designed for the entirety of my design degree. However, I am beginning to understand the inherent selfishness within this approach to design. It places the focus of the design onto the designer rather than the audience, ultimately, heralding the design to be a reflection of the designer’s capabilities and qualifications. This is best evidenced when designers are presented with a design problem or restriction that may hinder the visual quality of the product they are producing. Their reactions can vary from mild annoyance to feeling personally attacked and questioning how much the client truly values design if they are asking to sacrifice visual elements. If I am to be completely honest, initially, it wasn’t easy to design in an accessible way. There have been design problems that have challenged the very manner with which I design projects. However, as I engaged with it and thought about it, I began to realise that designing with accessibility wasn’t as difficult as I had considered it to be. There are many different elements and factors that must be taken into consideration and I am certain that I have missed or misunderstood certain steps as I have endeavoured to design an accessible and enjoyable e-journal. However, here are a few design choices that I have made with the intention of designing for a wider spectrum of people, with some of my decisions coming from the advice and wonderful support that I received from staff at Accessible Arts. Firstly, I enlarged the font size so that it can be read with greater ease for those who may have visual impairment or difficulties reading. I enlarged the point size (points are a unit of measurement within typography) from 8 or 9 pts to 12 pts, which at first glance may not appear to be significant but in reality is quite a shift. This is 8 pt text.
This is 12 pt text.
I also increased any font point size on black backgrounds as it is harder to read text on a black background due to the darkness surrounding the text giving the impression of shrinking the size of the words. I also avoided using text on top of images, as that can become difficult to follow, particularly if the image has a great deal of differing highlights, shadows or colours. By maintaining a consistent style throughout the overall structure of the magazine, a flow and familiarity was achieved throughout the entire e-journal, making it much easier to navigate and follow with confidence. For example, placing the headers of the article in the same place every time, using a rectangle to denote the beginning and the end of each article and placing quotes in consistent spots. These were all implemented with the intention of generating an enjoyable and consistent experience for all viewers. In addition to this online journal, another document was generated on Microsoft Word, which provides an audio accompaniment to the piece, whilst also providing the clearest and most accessible format to present information in. After designing for â€˜Critical Dialoguesâ€™, I have discovered that I am really only dipping my toes into a richer and more vibrant world which embraces and includes all people. I do not claim to be an expert in either design or accessibility, and there will be those that disagree with some of the decisions that I made. This is completely understandable. I may even disagree with myself in five yearsâ€™ time. However, I have engaged, and am currently engaging, in the conversation. Yes, it has been a challenge. Yes, I had to leave my comfort zone. But does this mean the design community should simply give up and just create a word document? Of course not! Such a response would be both lazy and insulting. If something is challenging, or does not necessarily 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, and in order to truly understand how to communicate to your audience, you must be in a dynamic dialogue with your audience. It is of utmost importance that greater care and consideration should be devoted to engaging in and understanding how we can design in an accessible way so that both form and function can work in conjunction with each other. There is only one way to enable such an outcome and that is to start now. Keegan Spring Bio
Keegan Spring is currently studying a Bachelor of Design in Visual Communication at the University of Technology, Sydney and is in his third and final year. He has a deep fascination in people, who they are, what they think and why. This 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 â€˜Critical Dialogues.â€™ Throughout this experience Keegan has been rewarded with a greater understanding of not only his own design capabilities but, most significantly, the importance of generating design outcomes that are accessible for all audiences. https://www.behance.net/keeganspring