Focus on the Art, Please

June 28, 2016

Form follows function? The round metal rolls across the floor. Sometimes quickly. And, at times, leisurely—with no place to hurry to. The wheels slide to a halt. He sits and listens to the piano—the music is soft but still complicated and substantial. She waltzes toward him and then—through much apparent effort and practice—drapes herself across his lap, over the arms of his chair. She stretches her feet out straight behind her as he spins the chair around. And, disappointed, I sigh.

This dance, in which both handicapped and able-bodied dancers move together, is what people term “Integrated Dance”. Were I feeling really snarky, I could get into it but that’s not my point here. Name it what you will. Call it “Flapping and Wonderful Dance Extravaganza” if you want. Call it “Fierce Rollers”. Really. It doesn’t matter to me.

What I care about, as a disabled person—as a disabled dancer—is that, in so much Integrated Dance, the dance is subsumed by the disability. In too much Integrated Dance I’ve seen, the art of the dance is overshadowed by “the problem”—by the “hardship” of the handicap. The device, the missing limb, or the limp arrests the audience, leaving the choreography, the execution, and the musicality unnoticed.

If Integrated Dance seeks to be a valid expression of art, the spotlight has to shift, not from the disability to the ability, but from the disability to the art.

– Rebeccah Bogue
Work/Study, Steps on Broadway

Photo: Darial Sneed, “On Display”, courtesy of Heidi Latsky Dance

Focus on the Art, Please