Town Hall: Dance Makers on Disability

My name is Cora Cahan. I have been working on 42nd street for more than 25 years. I was brought here by the state and the city to try to bring new energy and revitalize seven of the block’s eight theaters. They are now all leased. One of them is not yet restored. It’s right down the block with a very big sign promoting the New Victory right now, so we don’t mind that it’s not restored, but it actually is leased to somebody, and when I came here, the first thing we did was figure out how we could prove that change was possible on 42nd Street, which had been pretty much lost from the life of New Yorkers. No tourists came on the block. No vendors came on the block. No costume characters came on the block. (laughter) No naked ladies painted red, white, and blue came on the block, but a few of us dared to walk across this block beginning in 1990, and for first thing we did was open a theater for kids in what is today the city’s oldest operating theater, the New Victory, with the youngest audience in New York, and it opened in December 1995. There were still 37 sex shops still on this block when that theater opened. (laughter) We went from seeing people pushing dope on 42nd Street to people pushing baby strollers on 42nd Street, and now the issue we’re dealing with is actually too many people walking on 42nd Street and most of us walking in the traffic lanes to get somewhere. So, the second thing we did besides renting some of the other theaters to other people to renovate and use was to say what can we do for artists on this block, and we figured out a way to raise a substantial amount of money and open the new 42nd Street studios and The Duke, and make this building for artists. It says out front in what we kind of call the cornerstone of the building, “dedicated to the performing artists of the 20th and 21st centuries and to the spells they cast.” We actually thought it was going to open in 1999, but it didn’t quite make it. It opened in 2000, and when we built this building, and of course, this was something that was deeply felt by me, making a place that was cool enough when we want to be cool and warm enough when we want to be warm, beautiful mirrors, good lighting, good showers, wooden lockers not metal ones and big open bright spaces with good floors, good barres, etcetera etcetera, and windows. Windows that we can actually open in the studios if you wanted to, but it’s so noisy outside. At this point, we probably don’t. And for everybody. And for anyone who needed to work on their work would be called to work by others who needed to work be they dancers, singers, performing artists, and that the building be fully accessible because it was built for everybody Everybody a really important part of this, and I believe today that those of you who are here, as artists, in this building, be you able bodied or not so able bodied, have found that this is a building that actually does work for you. Going forward, we want to find out what else we can do. Maybe learn from this session here tonight or other sessions you’re going to have in the future with Dance/NYC, but it is so deeply pleasing to us that Lane asked us if we had any time to have this very first kick-off session here because we would love to be able to accommodate all three. I’m not sure that we can because we are pretty busy here, but if we can, we certainly will. I actually made a list because Alma- Where are you Alma? There’s Alma. Alma Malabanan, who is the Director of the New 42nd Street’s Studio Operations, made a little list for me of thinks we know about, in addition to what we started out with here,
which was making sure that there were bathrooms that were accessible on virtually every floor that anybody could work on, whether it be a studio or an office, or coming in even as an audience member, so what she pointed out for me, and I scribbled them down in my own handwriting, so now I can’t read it. In collaboration with Fractured Atlas, we created an online virtual floor of this studio building for artists with disabilities. We also realized at some point, no so long ago. It took us a long time for us to realize that there was a way for us to retrofit the entry doors here so that we could put automatic- What do we call those? Buttons? Pushers? Things. Whatever it is that you push. What do we call them? Push pads! I am going to remember that. Push pads. So those were added probably in the last twelve months or so. Took me a while. I think I saw a kid coming into the building or going out of the building more than once on, and I realized we always had to help her open the door, so we did find a way. We researched. The doors were pretty heavy. I am so glad we are there now. For me, because the doors are heavy and I am always carrying a lot of bags. We provide the people who lease this theater to produce works theater works or musical works. We always provide them with information about organizations that we deem to be high quality. We provide ASL interpretation as well as audio description of performances going on in this theater. I should also say we make sure that every show at the New Victory, which is a theater for kids, is sign interpreted at least once for the public and for the school kids so that every production is ASL interpreted And we also do audio description I don’t know if it is for every show. But frequently. Some shows don’t need audio description because they are so physical. And Alma you’re going to be attending the Leadership Exchange in Arts and Disability conference in Pittsburgh. Coming up soon. Because we are eager to learn what else we can do to extend and expand the services we provide currently in this building. In early May we hosted the Department of Cultural affairs discussion on Disability and Equality. We were very happy to do that and to also participate in that conference. So I welcome you here, we are so glad to see so many of you at the Duke. And I going to turn this over to Lane Harwell who has been such a champion for all of you. So thank you Lane for asking us, and I am so proud to be doing this. I am going to give you a big hug. I can’t stay because I am traveling tonight but I will hear all about it. Thank you very much, have a very good session. Good evening. I am Lane Harwell, the Executive Director of Dance/NYC. And I am honored to welcome you all this evening. I also want to thank Cora. It is not incidental that we are partnering with the New 42nd street which has set a gold standard for the usefulness of its design and its spaces for dance making and performance. Tonight is all about dance making and it’s about disability Dance/NYC is the service organization for dance in the metropolitan area. It is inaugurating a new International Voices event series. The series extends Dance/NYC’s commitment to a cultural ecosystem where disabled artists flourish. It also builds on pioneering research, program and coalition building that Dance/NYC has undertaken these past two years. And it puts our learning into conversation with national and international voices. The series coincides with a national initiative, a convening undertaken across the US undertaken by Axis Dance Company with support from the Nation Organization of Dance USA. Dance/NYC works in alliance with Dance/USA. So the effort in many ways is coastal and global. There are many to thank for their partnership and friendship and by making this series possible. In particular, the project funders, including the city of NY which is represented here tonight. I want to thank the Dance/NYC staff and volunteers especially the members of the Dance/NYC Disability. Dance. Artistry. Task Force And above all I would like to thank Dance/NYC’s new board member Alice Sheppard. I want to thank Simi Linton. They have curated the series and I thank them for that for all they do to move Dance/NYC and me forward. A few logistics before we introduce our moderator. First you should know you are being photographed and filmed tonight for archival purposes. Second, you can help us extend the conversation online, posting using the handle @dancenyc and using the hashtags #DDAvoices and #townhall on your twitter accounts. Third, you can learn more about the series and the panel using these quick links and You can also learn more about Dance/NYC and our work at, and if you become registered on our website you can also use it to promote your work. The evening consists of a conversation between dance makers Marc Brew and Dianne McIntyre moderated by Simi Linton followed by a question and answer series. We invite you to line up to a mic later or if you have a question you would like to send us by email you can send it to [email protected] and a representative will put your question the speakers. I am pleased to introduce our moderator, Simi Linton of Disability Arts Consultancy. Simi is the subject of the documentary Invitation to Dance which is directed and produced with Christian Von Tipplesearch. She is also the author of numerous publication on disability including the forward to Dance/NYC’s recent report Disability Dance Artistry. I have come to Simi through her role on the Dance/NYC task force and also good timing with Kristen as a colleague of NYC’ Cultural Affairs Advisory commission where we are working to ensure that disability is front and center in the agencies equity agenda. I really could not think about a better partner and friend to do this work with. I give you Simi Linton. Hello and welcome. It is a great pleasure to be here. We are here to talk about dance makers, thoughts motivations conundrums etc. As they contemplate their own and other choreographers work with disabled dancers and presenting disabled artistry. I speak for Ms. Sheppard and myself which is a dangerous thing to do. We were thrilled to have the opportunity to shape this series of town halls. We first need to thank Lane Harwell, for his leadership in bringing disabled dance and artistry to the core as a significant part of Dance/NYC’s mission. His commitment in unprecedented in the dance world as is his thoughtful and passionate articulation of the issues. Thank you Lane. It is a mutual admiration. He also spearheads a wonderful team including marvelous Alejandra Cifuentes who has been by our side. In crafting this series Alice and I sought to bring ideas about disability and dance forward in dynamic conversation. We are excited by the town hall structure because it incorporates dialogue and has a sense of urgency about the topic of consideration. And Alice and I feel a sense of urgency. This is a critical moment for disability arts and that we can move the agenda forward in a rigorous and dynamic way. And we could not be more delighted to kick off the series than to have the artists on stage with me here today, Dianne McIntyre and Marc Brew. They are extraordinary artists and I will give you a brief glimpse of their bios and urge you to read more extensively about them. Marc is an award winning Australian performer director and choreographer now based in Moscow. His work has been seen internationally in dance festivals and theaters. He has produced work for a wide range of prestigious dance companies around the world. Marc received the Santiberry medal for outstanding contributions for dancer and choreographer, in 2014 he was nominated for the Isadora Duncan award for outstanding achievement in performance. We will see a tidbit of his work in a few minutes. He is a renowned choreographer and one of the few disabled choreographers working today. He is here because he is respected for his exciting work and for his innovative thinking about that work. Dianne McIntyre, to my left, has earned Bessies, Guggenheim Fellowship, an honorary doctor awards. She has choreographed for Broadway regional theaters film and concert, and her work has been seen in such venues as the Joyce, Lincoln Center, American Dance Festival, Jacobs Pillow and throughout the US and Europe. She has choreographed two pieces for Dancing Wheels, a physically integrated dance company. She is here today because we know her to be rigorous thinking about dance and the topics of race and gender as they relate to dance so join me in welcoming our two wonderful speakers. We are going to see some images and clips. We may have to get out of the way. We are going to show you some video footage of my works. We will explore a description around that as well. You will hear me speak about the work giving a description of the texture and the tone of the work. While we are waiting, For Now, I Am was created a year and a half ago It premiered at Dance National Festival and has toured all around the UK and internationally. We just got back from Palestine, Holland and Australia. This finale is an autobiographical piece it very much looks at the moment I woke up in the hospital and had to rediscover my body after becoming paralyzed. Here we go. Come in white sheet with blue projections of water. Light reveals half naked body left arm extends. Arms making straight lines across his body. Folding bending. Straight lines. Circular round movements. Reaches for fabric. Wraps around him. Strengthening the arms. Reaching above. Reveals his back. Gestures, use of light and the floor. Distance. Finale. We are going to show you three photographs. The first is preparation of the piece called Usual Fragments which is with the prolific deaf musician named Dame Evelyn Glennie. The piece was created in 2012. Next work is called Island and it is created outdoors. It was filmed on a beach. Here are the two male dancers. The dancer is pulling away and are connected by hand holding. This third piece is a new piece in development called Brewband we have three dancers. We have a wheelchair dancer leaning back with one hand on the floor. We have a musician with a dancer, who is female in his arms. It is hard, all three of them are trying to play together. So the video you are going to see is from a piece I did in 2014 called Time is Time from the James Baldwin festival at New York Live Arts. In this piece I use a poem by James Baldwin. He was not known as well for his poetry. And in it he talks about some things that are rising up today again, about some of the atrocities that have happened historically and today. There is some speaking, live music and the dance. And so it try to experience the emotion that I find underneath the words. The dance becomes a couple with the words and the music. Another voice with the poetry. So you see two men one is speakers. The whole space is alive with our dances. Strikes our streaks. Their dream was sold on the auction block. There is a child and she is the future and I play time and I am sharing with her through movement what you are going to go through and how to carry the tradition over time. The time is coming in to outwit the authors of the blasphemy of our existence. The quilt on top are from Cleveland where I live. I though James Baldwin, an elegant man, would like that. I’m sorry I did not bring some of my work with Dancing Wheels with me but I will try to describe some of it. So I have two photos here. One is from a piece called Open the Door Virginia. It is a dance theater piece. It comes from interviews I did in Farmfield, Virginia. A young lady there in 1951 caused a strike for her schools to become a better school. When Brown versus Board of Education came around the whole county closed the school rather than desegragate. This is my long-time collaborator Olu Dara. He always had people laughing. So I am about to pose this question to Marc and Diane. So suppose a reviewer says he is one of the best disabled dancers onstage today. What is your reaction to that? What is or is not problematic? My first question would be why am I best dancer? I would want to know more about them. More so, I think it is very important that these dances are being reviewed. I remember the days when we could not get reviewers in to see disabled dances. They used to say they did not want to go and watch people suffering on stage. To me the fact that someone has reviewed the work is a positive thing. But the work must be for the dance and not because they are disabled. He should highlight what is good about the work and what stands out about the artists. So I had this experience some years ago where the reviewer said “Wow Dianne McIntyre, one of the best black dancers.” Why am I in a box like that? Why can’t you say one of the best dance companies? If you a performance of dancers in wheelchairs and it is some of the best work you have seen why limit it by saying it is the best disabled dance group I have seen. That was my reaction when the person said best black dance group. Why not just say one of the best companies in general? That is why it is problematic. The second part of the question is that why might someone want to be recognized in that way? What does that do that is not negative or detracting? Years ago I very much did not want to be characterized as disabled. I did not consider myself disabled. But as time went on that changed. I am very proud to identify as a disabled gay man. And now I do use that. Because I am. Yes so I guess you can say the same thing about race. Choreographers of color are not always on the same page about that. Some people do not do any work that is related to their racial background, and we are alright with that. And other people say yes this is black dance and address me as that. We all are honoring each other My work generally is not about disability, but there are a lot of artists who do not focus on disability. It is a part of me but is not always the topic. Growing up as an African America, something of my background is going to come out in my background. Something about the reviewer, the reviewing scene has improved a lot. They had to learn about how to review work by disabled artists because in the early days all they were picking out was “Oh that is inspirational.” If it was good then why was it good? The focus always seemed to be on the disability. And non-disabled dancers were not learning about the process of the work. But I definitely feel that it is improving because people are really educating themselves on art and the dance world and integrated work with disabled dancers. I live in Ohio where we have a company called Dancing Wheels which is an integrated company. The reviewers there have had lots of practice so they review the quality of the work. I’m sure in early days there were challenges. Yeah, reviewers tend to sentimentalize our work and any work by disabled people. So Dianne, you have taken on issues of race and gender in your work. How do you think the topic under consideration today is similar to the work you do? Race, like disability, is an idea. How is the work you do on race and gender similar to work you have done with disabled dances? I usually don’t do work about race. I did not grow up on ground zero, but there are situations that race brings up. There are parallels. Just like I showed you the picture about young children fighting against discrimination. There are parallels. I have done work with Dancing Wheels about the life of Mary Fletcher. Her obstacles are revealed in the dance. One choreographer did a work called Dancing on a Cloud about the parallels of racial issues and people with disabilities. There is one part where they are all in chairs. They chant “I want you to see me not my color. Not my chair.” The point of the work was to make that parallel. So Marc, what happens if you think of disability as a variation, a mutual condition of body and mind and not so much of a negative medical diagnosis? What happens to dance and dancers? For me it has been an interesting learning curve working both non-disabled and disabled dancers. I have been able to take so many skills and learn so many things from the people that I worked with. The first thing that I changed was my learning perceptions around dance. And what it really was to dance. But then I had to think about what I have now and how do I work with it. My restrictions really part of my creative process to explore rich possibilities for moving in new interesting ways. Which really excites me. When I work with other dancers, I go through a similar process. I teach them with my body. I am not making the process different, depending on who I am working with. But I am drawing out the best in the people that I am working with. There are no problems, I believe there are only solution. I really enjoy working with people to find solutions for how we can work together. Dianne, can you talk about the comparison between working with Dancing Wheels and working with dancers on point for the first time? I had a similar experience with these two groups. When I was in rehearsal and seeing something unique about dancers on point that you cannot do bare-footed. That is why you love watching it. I had to find the unique things that they do that flows with my style It was great and it was challenging. The same thing for people in wheelchair. I had to ask them “Can you do this?” “Can you tilt?” The same thing for people on point. The wheelchair can zoom across…you cannot run like that. Laughter I looked for things that only they could do, that you could not do otherwise. Well in that sense did you work more collaboratively with both sets of dancers to help you figure out your choreography in to working with dancers of a modality that you are more comfortable with? Maybe they can do this and some cannot do that. comparison Wait I am not answering the question? So maybe I had to question them more. It was a learning experience. So yes, I had to learn myself. It is exhilarating. So here is a question for both of you. And you can go off of the experience or history that you would like to. What is the role of non-disabled dancers in the world of dance, in the world of integrated dance? It could be a couple of things. First I would talk about choreographers. There are people who can explore being the in the same class being in the same rehearsals. Even if you want to watch how the work is being developed. I also work with Def Dance Jam Community with Aziza here in New York City. Many dancers of varied abilities have worked with her company over time. I learn from them also. People can go into the environment and ask to work with them and take class. We need more established choreographers to work with dancers with disabilities so that it will expose the non-disabled dance world to dancers with disabilities. More established choreographers going into the field. And some choreographers have taken on what I call physically integrated dance. The same as well with Indigo Dance Company in the UK. It has been a way for mainstream dance to learn from working with diverse groups of artists. There has been a real shift in my experience. A way in was more through contact work and improvisation. There is a shift when the disabled dancers wanted to start creating work and learning set choreography in order to be challenged. Now there are disabled choreographers creating work in different disciplines. Now it is pushing the art work forward. People are interested and it is being programmed more Now it is not just being seen by those within the group, now it is on the main stages and getting exposure which is what it needs. Do you think it is more prevalent in the UK and Australia? Definitely in the UK there has been a lot more funding supporting disabled artists and now I feel like it is happening more in the States, but obviously there is more that can be done. You don’t always want to see the same thing. You want to be amused you want to be challenged and provoked you want to laugh. And that’s another thing related dance departments in the country…is there special training for dance teachers who can actually teach so that a person who is a wheel chair dancer can get a degree in dance? Well I’m not going to answer that directly.  I want to invite you all to the next town hall that we are doing in the fall. The one that is going to be on University based programs. And we are having Victoria Marks and David Dorfman address that so I urge folks to come back. We have a second left before we are going to open it up to the audience for questions. We will also be putting up the questions that Alice and I came up with that we were not able to get to with the artists and those questions will be put up on the website as well Briefly, before we open the room. If there is something you would like to ask each other you can do that. I would like to know if in your experience… has there been anything that shifted or changed in your creative process after having worked with disability dancers? Well, that is a very good question. Some people ask me what I have learned. What I have taken forward…it might sound a little bit funny. I might try to have people who are what we call standing dancers do something that usually only wheelchair dancers would do. I have to push to do something that is provocative. And not just doing some sort of trick…because I have seen that sort of thing in choreography with wheelchairs. What is provocative that lets me dig deep and see what can be provocative in this particular work? I carry that into my other work so there are always surprises. How do they all know about you is it like word of mouth? Yeah word of mouth and also thanks to the internet. And also connections, I am very lucky I get to travel a present work and at events like this I can meet people. And hopefully the work speaks for itself. So people are interested in the work. I also do a lot of teaching myself. Well that is a question that I have. What has shifted in how you choreography for non-disabled dancers being a dancer who is now disabled? I think what shifted is me and my thinking. My work has shifted in regards to the way that I give information. I had to learn to be a lot clearer in vocalizing what I wanted. How could I show with my own body what it wanted? How could I use imagery? I had to learn to set material on my own body to give to the dancers to learn. I also give them different tasks to generate their own material. So I basically create this tool belt that I wear. And I do that with all dancers I work with whether they be dancers with disabilities or not. Whether I am working with a ballet company or a contemporary company. I always use these tools that I work with. I take more chances and myself farther. One of the things I realized recently working with the Spanish Ballet. I taught them an arm phrase, it was a very awkward phrase. And then I told them to go away and create the choreography for the feet. I said I want you to come up with something to do with your feet. Whether they are ballet steps or contemporary steps. And they said oh no we can’t do that. They said, “well normally when and artists comes in they make up the steps and we get to decide what they do with their arms. But not you’re asking us to do the opposite.” And they could not really figure out who to do that. So I had to work with them to change their way of thinking. But it’s great I think you learn from both sides. Well, thank you so much. We are going to move to the audience questions. Thank you this is so interesting. This question is provoked by Dianne’s comment about working with dancers on point and dancers using wheelchairs, and I presume that all choreographers are trained dancers and had an extensive dance training and that eventually they moved into the vision of creating movement for others. Furthermore, that until recently the body of a dancer was fairly limited in its definition. So as you are talking to people, particularly people with disabilities, or people who are working with one leg or using crutches, not just chair dancers…Is there a temptation to figure out what they do by actually trying out a chair yourself? Do choreographers attempt to take on for the moment the unfamiliar body? Previously, they had a familiarity with these able-bodied dancers and so the leap was not so great, so I wonder if there is a temptation not only to ask them to do something or to show you, but to embody that body? Yes, that is a very good question. Well I have done that with Dancing Wheels, it helped me understand because they also used a specific type of chair, which is like a sports chair. Well I have tried that, I am not so good as they are but it has helped me get an understanding. And all of the people in the company are experts at using the chairs. Sometimes choreographers have everybody in the company in the wheelchairs. In Deaf Dance Jam Community, all of the company had to know sign language. So for the choreography it is very good to go into those traditions and to know. It helps with the choreography. That’s a great question, thank you. Umm…to both of you. I find that when I am going to work with disabled dancers, first I have to train them. Since I am not using so much free movement or improv. or contact. It is important for the work that I do that they know something of vocabulary. It is going to be different on every body that comes. No two chair dancers move the same way. So, have you found that to be a challenge to find disabled dancers who are willing to put the time in? Well, the individuals I work with they have to be trained. I spoke about Mary Fletcher who developed a manual for training. There are some dancers who are more beginners and sometimes they do not make the cut in my choreography to be able do certain phrases maybe they have to be more like chorus dancers or something. So there is a difference in those who have been trained. And some have a more natural…you know.. you don’t like to say natural dancer. And some have been trained as standing dancers in their former lives. Before they became disabled…Yes, before they became disabled. So there is much more, you get a lot…But training is very important. Yeah, I find that at least here in New York, this is what I know best, it is hard to find dancers who are trained. So I spend a lot of time teaching dancers who want to dance basic technique. And hopefully they will learn for themselves in technique class. I know that it will come up in a another town hall about training. But it is also important that there are places where people can gain access to that training so there is equality for all. I train my dancers that I work with, whether it is belly dancers or ballet dancers or contemporary dancers. I have to train them to embody my style; any body or physicality that I want. So whether it is a disabled dancer or a non-disabled dancer there is that sharing; they need to learn to embody my vocabulary and what I want. Other dancers have to break through a whole learning code as well, how to be intimate with someone else’s body or how to use sticks or canes or a chair. So there is very much an important process In the beginning I spend two weeks just getting to know each other getting to know how we work together. So I think it is a part of any creative process, that has to happen. It is interesting to hear you mentioned contact improve because what and amazing open ended opportunity to explore what someone might do and to explore the interaction between each of the dancers. It probably reveals something to you that you might not have seen in a typical dance class. So first and foremost, thank you both so much for your insight. I really appreciate it. I want to know a little more about the intersection of race and disability. As a Latino who is disabled I exist in this marginalized communities. And so Marc my question to you is how do you leverage your white privilege? Because although you are disabled, you are white in America, or you are considered white. So how do you leverage that privilege Marc? And also to Dianne, how do you leverage the fact that you are a non-disabled person? So how do you leverage your privilege in your work. So I just want to clarify the word you have chosen, leverage. Can you tease that out a little more? Oh, sure! Do you, in your roles, use that to enhance the community forward? How do you use your privileges to enhance the community forward? I interpret that a little bit differently. Because sometimes I have had a privilege of race which you might think would be backwards. But there was a period because my company was in Harlem, at an earlier time when Harlem was a little different. [Laughs]. And because it was a company of primarily African Americans we actually were rewarded for that. Just as the company Dancing Wheels in Cleveland gets money from dance programs and from disability programs. They get double money. So I had got money from dance and from what they was underserved communities or underserved races. But I did not answer you question about how I use my leverage of being a dancer without a disability. I have to think about that while he answers. I just want to say that the next town hall is about race and disability so we will get to tease out more of these questions. Not to let you two off the hook! This is hard for me as well. I understand that white males get a lot more opportunity and are really up there. But thinking about it on a dance scale and the imbalance of that. Particularly in ballet, recently there was an article about the huge dominance of white male choreographers in ballet. I would like to see a dance, a square dance on stage where people go two-by-two. I think it would be fun. And to actually see people in wheelchairs having fun on stage. I think when you see people in wheelchairs you think negativity and to see them having fun, I think that’s a plus. You need to come to Scotland, in Scotland we do a social dance and I’ve done them many times. We do it all together. It is all about people with differences all doing it together. I’ve also done some work with a company in London, I was there to create work for the Rhinestone Brawlers, they were actors and performers and there where all these power chairs with which we created our own line dancing and they were performed at different outdoor festivals around the UK. That is what I would like to see in America. I have not seen Square Dancing either but I have certainly seen fun. I think it’s important to bring in the ways that social dancing, that disabled people in clubs at parties on dance floors all over the place are creating a dynamic and exciting social and cultural moment. And I think that social dancing informs performance and performance informs social dancing. And I agree that square dancing would be a great addition to that. I just want to add that I studied ballet and modern from eleven and half to twenty-one and a half, but my toe shoes are still under my bed. Well, good for you! So, I have been involved with dancers who have been trained from a young age, but I have been disabled my entire life. But as an adult I have been able to witness this awesome evolution of disabled dance. And I’ve also noticed this sort of tension in the dance world between the trained and the untrained. The use of dance as a recreation for disabled folks versus more serious disabled dancing. And in a sense disability dance lowers the traditional barrier for entry in the dance world because you can sort of sneak in untrained and then dance and do amazing things. And then there is that world of “Were you a dancer before?” “Were you trained?” “Are you training now are you any good?” And then the whole mess of the fact that there are not many programs that train disabled dancers. So people are trying to figure out how to get trained…to figure out if what you are doing is legitimate. I am sort of on the cusp of it and trying to get my toe in and it is like: “Am I going to be taken seriously?” “Am I going to be any good?” I never did train. So I guess my question is how do you reconcile this great big mess of trained and untrained, choreography and “newbie” and wanting to be taken seriously but not taken too seriously? Does any of that make sense? I don’t think there is just one way. I think it is about what is right for you as a dancer. We all learn differently and there are different ways of learning. There are obviously these different trajectories of learning dance, but that’s not right for everyone. Sometimes it is about learning on the job, through apprenticeships. There are a lot of companies that do that now. Maybe going through youth companies so that you can train now. And there is a path of maybe joining a company as an apprentice. Whether it is about training with a company. Or maybe going and creating your own path. So maybe it is about going and doing some dance with them and doing a residency with another company or going to learn from that teacher who is doing a master series for a week. It is about to finding what is right for you as a dancer and what you want. And one thing that I’ve witnessed in the last few years is that people want to learn different dance styles as well not just contact or improvisation. Yes, and I think that through this series we are developing a vocabulary here, but the opportunity to develop a dance vocabulary in the dance studio. To create a notation system that we can pass on. To create a notation system that is not based on older models but there is an opportunity right now to create a dance vocabulary that is broader and more complex than before. One of the reasons that Alice and I are so excited about the town halls is that there is that opportunity to talk about it and to invite those of you who work with dancers to think about what kinds of technique what kinds of teaching models what kinds of screening processes in schools will serve a broader and more inclusive dance world. So that is, I think, the challenge. And in terms of being taken seriously, I think we are on our way. Ok, we are going to have to wrap this up. I just want to say on the other side of that…There are a lot of companies and groups that love to work with people trained or non-trained. So, I’ve seen Drake Bell who works with dancers with atrophy. There are people who want to work with dancers who love dance but don’t necessarily have traditional training. We are going to take one question from a member of the audience who emailed their question in. So, this question is from Karen, who asks: Have any choreographers working with dancers with disabilities reinterpreted traditional dances such as Swan Lake that may more movement with the legs, reinterpreting that movement to be done by the arms. For instance, changing the language, so to speak and what would the value of that be? Yes, there are. CandoCo Dance Company did Trisha Brown’s work. I also did a similar piece with a choreographer where we the cygnets from Swan Lake. We had people wheeled in in darkness and the spotlight came up and we did the whole cygnet dance just with our heads. So I took all of the choreography and reinterpreted it and did all the precise headwork. And everybody loved it, it was brilliant. Well we are going to half to move to the reception and more talking. I think this has not been a nice evening. We have muddled with the messiness of some of these ideas that are not clear cut. Those of us in the disability game are tired of niceness, we are tired of order and trying to fix everything. We invite all of you to keep participating in these town halls. We promise messy, chaotic, open ended, inconclusive discussions that aren’t tidy and really spark the kind of creativity that this work demands. So thank you so much Dianne, thank you so much Marc. I just have a few words that does bring the formal event, the mess, to a close. We would like you to linger and to with each other continue these conversations outside of the theater. I believe we have the space until 8. And as Alma will tell us in just a few minutes there is also a party happening outside. Thank you speakers and also thank you Simi. On behalf of Dance/NYC’s Board and Advisors. Thank you all for being with us to inaugurate this Dance. Disability. Artistry. (Inter)national Voices Series. We invite you to continue with us to advance disabled artists and artistry. You can learn more about our research, our programming, our online resources at You can also visit to register for upcoming events in this series. The next event is on September 20th and it is titled Disability, Race, and the Practice of Dance with Dr. Carrie Sandahl and Dr. Aimee Meredith Cox. I hope you will all be there. Please help up also improve these events and the event experience. We have a survey that many of you received in paper on the way in. The staff will be collecting those in baskets as you leave. There is also a quick link for the survey which is It takes just three minutes. Some very happy parting news I would like to share with you. This is not yet public, but I am very happy to share it, I hope you are happy to hear it. The Ford Foundation has invested in our work and helping us to established a Disability. Dance. Artistry. Re-grant Fund. We will be funding integrated dance companies performing work by and with disabled artists in the metropolitan area. I would like you to save just these two dates. Right after Labor Day, we will be issuing further details and we will be accepting proposals by October 25th. I hope that you will participate and spread the word to those who may be interested. Thank you for all you do and will do for disabled artists.

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