From the 22nd November to the 22nd December marks the U.K disability history month, TowerProject in collaboration with CREATE, & CODA dance company have produced a dance performance piece in which young disabled people took part to give a beautiful performance that took place on the 17th December at the Half Moon theatre (www.halfmoon.org.uk/).
In the spirit of reflecting on disability throughout history, the treatment of disability in theatre works has reflected an evolution in mainstream social attitudes towards disability. In Western culture, disability was once rarely mentioned in plays. The inclusion of disabled performers in theatre has developed alongside the wider public acceptance of integrating people with disabilities in mainstream society.
Pioneering work which took place in New York City with groups such as the National Theatre Workshop of the Handicapped (NTWH) provides theatre training and production for performers with disabilities. It was principally inclusive of performers and playwrights with physical disabilities when it was founded in 1977. As well as the NTHW, in relation to dance within the disabled community or commonly known as physically integrated dance was first explored during the late 1960s. Dance instructor Hilde Holger taught dance to her son, who had Down Syndrome, would perform with him and alongside disabled dancers in the late 1960s. Today a number of other dance companies around the world now perform with physically or mentally disabled dancers. We can see this within Tower Project’s recent dance theatre project, Julie Ann Minaai, a professional dance artist who was one of the chorographers who worked with TowerProject to develop this theatrical dance performance, we decided to interview you here to understand and learn more about the production and it’s creative process.
- How did your relationship with TowerProjects come about?
I am a professional dance artist who works for Create on various creative dance projects. Create commissioned Nikki and myself to create dance workshops for the participants involved in the moving:music project, which takes place each year at TowerProject.
(more information about Create can be found on their website (http://createarts.org.uk).
- How many performances have you done with us or is this the first?
This is my first performance with TowerProject and hopefully not the last! I’ve truly enjoyed every moment working with each individual and creating the beautiful dance performance we premiered yesterday at the Half Moon Theatre.
- What was the inspiration behind the choreography?
The inspiration behind the choreography came from movement and imagery ideas that we explored in each session, and the warm sense of community that we felt from the group. Everyone is so caring to us and to each other. It’s really beautiful and very special.
We played with various creative imagery-based games and tasks that allow the participants to explore different movement qualities, images, environments and the use of different body parts through the imagination. In one session, we imagined that we were outside in different locations with various weather conditions. We began by imagining that we are sitting in a sunny park along the river then clouds gather leading into a storm with pouring rains and howling winds. It was beautiful to see the participants engaged and portraying how they would feel if they were caught in a storm. We wanted to participants to feel free to move and dance in their own expressive way. Our belief is that anyone can dance and our goal is to make dance accessible to everyone. There is no right or wrong way of dancing and moving. Each individual has their own artistic expression. We were so happy to see the participants trust us and have fun with our creative imagery-based games and tasks.
We also played with abstract ideas, such as how we can paint a white room with different coloured paints, whether if it is making large brush stroke with our hands, drawing our names with our elbows, making footprints, making swirls with our noses or throwing paint on each other. Nikki and I wanted to share the fun imagination side of making a dance and moving in different ways.
We also wanted to include contact and spatial games in which we make shapes or “spikey trees” around each other. We played with how we can make sculptural shapes and connect to each other then move together to make a larger forest of “spikes trees.” In the process of playing with contact and spatial relationships to others, Nikki and I felt this image of a forest was perfect for piece. Everyone connects and cares for each other and that feeling of a family is so apparent. Therefore we wanted to make their piece about dancing together as one team.
- What do you think are the benefits of bringing drama and dance within the disabled community?
Dance and drama (and the arts in general) are extremely important to share with all individuals. Each person can find a way of expressing his or herself that may otherwise be difficult. Dance allows individuals to understand how we interact and connect with others through physical, spatial, observational and verbal communication. Through the use of the imagination, we can allow our mind to think creatively and believe that we can accomplish goals through various possibilities and it can shape our outlook on the world we live in. Thus, connecting mind and body. Physically we can understand our bodies and explore how we can move and utilise various body parts.
- Any other thoughts/feedback on the project?
It has been an incredible experience working with TowerProject on the moving:music project. I have enjoyed every moment and I’m so proud of what the group has accomplished. Nikki and I are so thankful for everyone’s trust in us in exploring some creatively wild ideas! I’m going to miss each person and their beautiful smiles. This project is exactly why I love my job and inspires me! The staff involved in the project (Minos, Alex, Aggie, Monica and Reshma) are amazing! I cannot begin to explain how incredible they all are. Their engagement and support in the project truly made this experience memorable and fantastic! It’s very rare to have such wonderful caring staff involved in a project like this. They added to that beautiful sense of community.
A huge well done to all the talented individuals who helped create such an amazing performance! WELL DONE GUYS! what a way to end the year!
Click the link below to check out the amazing photos!