Janice Parker: Disabled Leaders in Dance

In November 2015 Janice began work on a mentoring project in Barcelona aimed at supporting the professional development of local disabled dancers in choreographic practice. The project is led by British Council Spain.

Janice reflects on the project in this extract from Disability Arts International: “The politics of my practice lies in the area of ‘who and what is not yet valued, why is it not and what are we missing because of this?’  When the British Council invited me to lead this nine-day workshop aimed at supporting the professional development of local disabled dancers in choreographic practice, I thought this was right up my street… the start of a new revolution,  new voices and visions,  investment in the next generation of innovative, provocative dance-makers, aiming for excellence… I could go on.

“Ten dancers signed up. We began with questions about choreography.  We talked about the politics of disability-led dance and where it sits in the world currently and historically. And we looked at each person’s kernel of an idea as the start of an enquiry, as an investigation and as a deep desire to make and create dance.  It was a process, not of training as such, but one of sharing and exchange, a dialogue and collaboration that unfolds, where the emergent choreographers were authors from the start.

“The vocabulary, because of the bodies creating it, was deliciously diverse and innovative. I witnessed people work deeply and thoroughly into their own movement possibility.  Some of that vocabulary was breathtaking and hugely exciting. Some of it was funny, or politically pointed.  My belief is that dance needs these new vocabularies. We need innovation in form and function. Art is not and never has been in its essence, something that has stood still. Diversity and difference in body types, languages and vocabularies of movement, and in life experience bring with it the potential for deep innovation, radical challenge and a development of current contemporary practice.

“For me, what was particular about Barcelona, was the sheer number of disabled dancers attending the workshop,  along with their confidence in and awareness of the landscape of their own bodies. They are hungry and on fire, ready to go further into choreographic practice and thinking, and to take risks. There is also real potential, and interest, within the city and its cultural organisations to further develop the existing infrastructure, resources and opportunities for these emerging choreographers to continue on their journey.  Through sharing practice, politics and experience we can do this on an international level and on a local level at the same time, building partnerships and working collaboratively together.”

You can read the full article from Disability Arts International, here.

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