Tag Archives: dance

Recommended Reading for Wednesday, September 29

Insomnia Anna says: “Yawn”

Raising My Boychick: On The Ubiquitous Use of “Crazy”

Now you’re just being melodramatic. Don’t you have bigger things to worry about?

Sure. I have mental health disparity because of racism and other bigotries, and exorbitant prices of prescription drugs, and insurance that won’t cover the medicines that work for me, and mental health wards closing, and overcrowding and dehumanizing protocols in the ones still open, and cops shooting people they know are unwell, and mental health used as an excuse to take away our kids, and a lack of effective treatments, and a terrifying mortality rate that people treat as a dishonoring failure in morality. I got lots of bigger stuff to worry about.

Where’s the Benefit: No Wonder People Think We’re All Scroungers

The coalition government’s attack on disabled people isn’t limited to reassessing benefits or encouraging members of the public to shop “scroungers”. Something rather more terrifying is going on: the government and associated entities are repeatedly, and persistently, describing Disability Living Allowance as an out-of-work benefit – which helps convince the general public that it’s a waste of “their” hard-earned tax.

As I wrote in this piece for Guardian Comment is Free, the government’s State of the Nation report offers a woefully misleading representation of the nature and purpose of DLA. “There is a high degree of persistence among claimants of many low-income and out-of-work benefits”, it says. “For example … around 2.2 million people, including 1.1 million people of working age, have been claiming disability living allowance for over five years”.

New Muslim Comic Book Superhero on the Way [Comments are horrible]

The new superhero is the brainchild of a group of disabled young Americans and Syrians who were brought together last month in Damascus by the Open Hands Intiative, a non-profit organization founded by U.S. philanthropist and businessman Jay T. Snyder.
The superhero’s appearance hasn’t been finalized, but an early sketch shows a Muslim boy who lost his legs in a landmine accident and later becomes the Silver Scorpion after discovering he has the power to control metal with his mind.

Astrid’s Journal: Autism, Intellectual Disability, and the concept of Primary Disability

The other point I have huge disagreements with, is the excusing of the lack of attention for intellectually disabled autistics from autistic advocacy groups. This excusing comes from the reasoning that these groups are concerned with autism, not intellectual disability, but you cannot specialize multiple disabilities away. In my opinion, autistic advocacy groups should be concerned with all autistics, including those with multiple or severe disabilities.

Disability Now interview with Dan Daw of Restless Dance Company in Australia: Dancing Dan: The Wizard from Oz

What’s the best thing about being disabled?
Watching people’s faces as the cogs turn when I use the words “dance” and “disability” in the same sentence – priceless!

What funny things get said about your impairment?
My favourite is at airports when the metal detectors beep and they presumptively say, “Oh, you’ve got a metal hip”. “No”, I reply, “I’m wearing a belt”.

Marissa at This is Hysteria: Go Where? Gender, Ability, Intersectionality and Constructivism Please note this is an image-heavy post, and the disability-specific stuff starts about halfway down.

This flawed way of understanding identity – each deviation from the default seen as a discrete layer – is reflected in the washroom signs indicating wheelchair access. Often, there is a male figure, a female figure, and a third non-gendered figure in a wheelchair. Disability is depicted as a discrete aspect of identity, to be layered on top of gender.

Simon Darcy at Accessible Tourism Research: Inherent Complexity: Accessible Accommodation Room Components

Most research had identified the generalities of accessible accommodation requirements without having any specific empirical approach to understanding the needs from a mobility, vision, hearing and cognitive perspective. Each individual has their own access discourse where they value the relative importance of certain room components based on their individual access needs (e.g. many wheelchair users require a roll in shower & hand held shower hose Photo 1). While the overall building codes and access standards identify a myriad of components, the individual only understands at least complex technical documents from what they require in an accessible room (Australian Building Codes Board, 1990; Standards Australia, 1992, 2001, 2002). On the other hand, the accommodation manager manly as a understanding that their establishment has a “disabled room” that people with disability should be other stay in. Hence, once an individual hears that establishment has an accessible room they believe that it will meet their needs (Darcy, 2010).

In The News:

Canada: Dead Veteran’s Last Battle Was for Disability Cheque. “On Feb. 27, he died at the age of 93 in Barrie, Ont. Three weeks later, the $55,000 disability cheque he had been expecting arrived, becoming part of the assets in his small estate. That is, until officials with Veterans Affairs Canada ordered the money seized. Quick may have qualified for a disability but now that he was dead the government wanted its money back.”

UK: MSP Drops disabled clause from assisted suicide bill “Bill Scott, Policy Officer at the campaign group Inclusion Scotland, welcomed the decision, saying: ‘That clause was dangerous, particularly at a time of cutbacks, to say to people you can’t live independently but you can apply for state-assisted suicide as if it’s a way out.'”

Australia: Disabilities ‘forgotten’: opposition “Senator Fifield said more needed to be done to help people with disabilities because neither Labor nor the coalition had “covered themselves in glory” on the issue.”

A.I. spotlight: Keepon and Paro

At the risk of understatement, exciting things are happening when it comes to robotics and artificial intelligence and the potential applicability of these fields in the lives of PWDs.

[Description: A small, bright yellow robot with two eyes and a black nose stands in front of a white background. Outlined in orange and bright blue, the robot leans slightly to the left while it sits atop a small black pedestal]  Image courtesy of this page on the CMU website.

The little ‘bot pictured above is Keepon, developed by Hideki Kozima and Marek Michalowski at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute, located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Keepon’s purpose is to interact with children with emotional, neurological or sensory processing disorders, and who otherwise may have difficulty interacting with other children, relatives, or caregivers. However, Keepon has become something of an internet sensation in recent years, most notably when a 2007 video of the robot dancing to Spoon’s “I Turn My Camera On” became extremely popular on YouTube, and inspired a Wired Magazine-backed promo video for Spoon featuring Keepon. As this 2008 excerpt (accessibility warning: video is not close-captioned) from Discovery Channel’s show “The Works” demonstrates, there is quite a bit of potential for Keepon’s original purpose; it may be cute (and a great dancer), but the potential for this sort of technology to help children with disabilities is worth further exploration.

A New York Times article from this past July, written by Amy Harmon, discussed another A.I. creature, Paro, which is made to resemble a seal cub. Paro was first developed by Takanori Shibata, a researcher working at Japan’s national science institute AIST.  The NYT article describes Paro thusly:

Paro is a robot modeled after a baby harp seal. It trills and paddles when petted, blinks when the lights go up, opens its eyes at loud noises and yelps when handled roughly or held upside down. Two microprocessors under its artificial white fur adjust its behavior based on information from dozens of hidden sensors that monitor sound, light, temperature and touch. It perks up at the sound of its name, praise and, over time, the words it hears frequently.

The whole article is worth a read, as it covers the success that some senior residential communities in the U.S. have had with using Paro as an assistive device — sort of akin to animal therapy without an actual animal (which might cause problems for, say, residents with allergy issues) — for some residents.  There is also a video at the NYT’s website (unfortunately, sans transcript) that shows Paro in action. The article also discusses at length some of the benefits of this sort of technology, as well as some of its limitations.

Of course, Keepon and Paro are only two examples of the amazing possibilities of artificial intelligence, and it remains to be seen as to whether this technology — which, like many new technologies, currently comes with a rather hefty price tag — can be made more accessible to people or organizations that cannot afford to pay $6,000 U.S. for a Paro. Hopefully, these A.I. breakthroughs will not be as pricey in the future, and will be made accessible to a wider variety of people — including PWDs.

Interview: Ingrid Voorendt, Dance Theatre Director

Ingrid Voorendt is a choreographer and director as well as the former Artistic Director of Restless Dance Theatre. Restless is an integrated dance company based in Adelaide, Australia, featuring young disabled and abled dancers. Their latest show, Beauty, has just finished its run at the Adelaide Festival Centre. You can visit the Restless Dance website for more.

I spoke to Ingrid about her thoughts on disability and dance, creativity and the nature of beauty.

Please tell our readers about what you do and about Beauty. Can you tell us about your creative process in dreaming up and putting the show together, working with the dancers and those behind the scenes?

Ingrid: It’s a collaborative process, so I come up with questions and tasks to get the dancers creating movement material. I don’t choreograph ‘on’ them, we work together to devise the movement that’s in the show. In Beauty some of the movement came from interpreting the shapes, postures and gestures we found in images of women in classical visual art. The dancers responded to the images, creating movement material. We also developed material through improvisation. My job is to initiate the process and then edit, shape and compose the developing material to create a show, and to work in collaboration with the set and costume designer, sound designer and lighting designer through dialogue and decision making.

Why was it important for you to explore the notion of beauty? What do you think it is, and how to explore it in a world in which disabled people aren’t often thought of as beautiful?

Ingrid: I was interested in exploring the notion of beauty for a range of reasons, one being simply that I’d rebelled against ‘the beautiful’ in a couple of previous Restless shows I’d directed, in terms of content and aesthetic. Beauty was inspired by some of the dancers themselves, in particular Dana Nance, who is a stunning young woman with physical and intellectual impairments. I was interested in the oscillation audience may perceive or experience between Dana’s beauty and her impairment. With Beauty, I wanted to make a work in which the disabled performers would be viewed as beautiful first and foremost. My favourite moment in the show was when Dana stepped into a projection of the Venus de Milo (a classic image of beauty), in which she fits perfectly.

I think beauty is much more than surface, as I believe we all do, but we live in a culture increasingly driven by the visual, by a world of images. It’s true that in our society disabled people aren’t often thought of as beautiful, and I hope Beauty questions this in a subtle way. Beauty is also linked to sexuality, which is also often denied in disabled people.

How do representations of women’s bodies tie in with disability in Beauty?

Ingrid: I found it interesting to discover during our research that (unsurprisingly) many of the poses found in images of women in classical visual art are echoed in contemporary fashion photography and advertising. So in a subtle way in the show we were playing with these images which reference both the past and the present, but disabled women were the ‘bodies’ being looked at, and on their own terms. The opening of the show was a solo by Jianna Georgiou, a gorgeous young woman with Down Syndrome, who is a beautiful, quite voluptuous dancer. I loved watching this solo, because the movement within it is so evocative of classic images of ‘beautiful’ women – and Jianna is very beautiful, and is also a proud disabled woman. I liked the fact that Jianna was representing herself, yet referencing the bodies of others. I hoped that the audience would question their perceptions around who is/whose bodies are beautiful.

Now that the run is over, do you have any thoughts you’d care to share looking back on the experience?

Ingrid: It’s always such a fast and intense process making a show, and there’s so much I’d like to change and develop further. I think Beauty could have gone a lot further and deeper than it did. Hopefully there’ll be a chance to revisit it in the future.

Recommended Reading for July 13, 2010

Problem Chylde at Feministe: Storytelling as a Radical Act

They won’t speak out for fear of losing something: losing a relative, losing control of their lives, or losing their stories. To them, it’s not a myth that their stories will be repeated without their names to guide them. Anyone can pick up a textbook and read case studies about H, a 26-year-old African-American woman from X with cerebral palsy, or see pictures of happy smiling children online referred to as “happy smiling children in the Y mountains/Z desert/Q farmland.” These people — their bodies, their plight, their stories — are Other. No names in the street, in the book, in the mind, and people only recently have been asking why they are nameless.

Jeannine Stein, Los Angeles Times: Movement therapies may reduce chronic pain

Movement-based therapies such as yoga, tai chi, qigong and more mainstream forms of exercise are gaining acceptance in the world of chronic pain management. Many pain clinics and integrative medicine centers now offer movement-based therapy for pain caused by cancer and cancer treatments, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, and other diseases and conditions.

lisa at Sociological Images: Norms, Normality and Normativity

Sociologists distinguish between the terms “norm,” “normal,” and “normative.”

The norm refers to what is common or frequent.  For example, for Christian Americans, celebrating Christmas is the norm.

Normal is opposed to abnormal.  Even though celebrating Christmas is the norm, it is not abnormal to celebrate Hanukkah.  To celebrate Hanukkah is perfectly normal.

In contrast to both of these, normative refers to a morally-endorsed ideal. . .

Wheelchair Dancer: Equivalencies:Days 2 and 3

We use equivalent to suggest that two separate and often very different things are the same, or, at least, of equal value. But the very insistence on equivalence underscores the potential for the thing that is being compared to be somehow less than the original. Rather than “same but different,” it’s more “different but same.” My mind jumps to “separate but equal.”

Creative Work: AXIS Dance Company

On Saturday, abby jean, Annaham, and I went to see AXIS Dance Company, an integrated dance company based in the Bay Area, perform at the Yerba Buena Arts Festival in San Francisco. After some misadventures (namely us climbing way too many stairs because we went to the wrong place first), we managed to find the performance and settle down to watch.

The regular company was supplemented by other dancers, for a group of what looked like around 35 people performing a piece specifically choreographed for the Yerba Buena Gardens space. It’s an interesting space because there are all sorts of ramps and levels and things, and these were all integrated into the piece. One of the dancers told me after the performance that one of the things that made the space challenging was the concrete, which was really uneven. Visually, though, the space was really stunning, with a pouring waterfall as a backdrop for the dancers and the ability to perform on different levels, having dancers both on the main stage area and on the balconies above.

Occasionally passersby would meander through the piece, some looking deeply confused. The whole dance had a very organic, flowing feel, and I loved watching all of these individuals and bodies moving in all kinds of interesting and different ways.

The dancers at Yerba Buena. They are caught in the act of waving their arms in various directions, some bending over and twisting their bodies.

I am not a modern dance critic, or particularly well versed in dance in general. Usually I look at things and go ‘oooh that’s nice’ or ‘hrm.’ I really loved the AXIS piece, though. I felt like it really played to the strengths of the dancers as individuals, highlighting them as human beings rather than presenting them as an amorphous mass of interchangeable people, which is sometimes how I feel with highly regimented choreography where everyone moves in precisely the same way. The piece had character and it sparked some thoughts in me about interconnectivity, interdependence, and community.

There was an element of play to the piece, with dancers and bystanders alike darting about in the space, and at the end of the piece, everyone locomoted to the far end of the performance area and flopped over, which I rather loved. Hey, dancing is hard work! Dancers were also waving and interacting with the audience, which was a bit of a departure from audience environments I am used to where you are expected to sit quietly and watch, not moving or expressing anything until the piece is over.

The dancers flopped over in a pile on the far left of the stage.

AXIS is about to go on tour, and if you happen to be in or around Bates, Maine; Seattle, Washington; or Lincoln, Nebraska, I would highly recommend seeing one of their performances. They return to the Bay Area in November and I suspect I’ll be going again. I think I may be on the verge of becoming an integrated dance groupie.

The dancers in a row at the curtain call.

It was also, if I may gush for a moment, supercool to get an opportunity to meet some of the dancers afterwards and talk with them about their work and their projects. I live in a pretty isolated area, and being able to bask in the Bay Area disability community for a day was really wonderful; the performance and the conversations I had afterwards sparked some reevaluations and thoughts about how I want to structure my own life and work.

Recommended Reading for 18 June, 2010

Warning: Offsite links are not safe spaces. Articles and comments in the links may contain ableist, sexist, and other -ist language and ideas of varying intensity. Opinions expressed in the articles may not reflect the opinions held by the compiler of the post and links are provided as topics of interest and exploration only. I attempt to provide extra warnings for material like extreme violence/rape; however, your triggers/issues may vary, so please read with care.

A GI Joe, a male plastic doll with a crewcut, posed to form the American Sign Language Sign for 'friend.'

(Photo by kiddharma, Creative Commons License)

Alice Dreger and Ellen K. Feder at Bioethics Forum: Bad Vibrations (Content warning: child sexual assault, forced genital surgery, medical experimentation)

What is Poppas thinking? So far as we can tell, from published articles, presentations to parents, and his communications with Feder, he thinks he is responding to critics of genital surgery, like us, and thus reassuring parents that everything is going to be fine. Notably, though, there is a lack of control data for most of the patients described, meaning that we don’t know what sensation these girls might have had without the surgeries, nor do we know what a “normal” level of sensation is at these ages. (We can’t imagine any sane parent giving up his or her daughter to be the control.) We also don’t know that what the surgically altered girls feel in childhood will map onto their adult sexual lives. And we don’t know how Poppas’s tests are going to affect their psychosocial development.

Wheelchair Dancer: Super Movement

I wonder if, as the company has over the years got “better”, the price of that has been a series of expectations for ever more complicated and daring moves. I wonder if we will be able to keep up and, even, keep our reputation/ following as dance audiences, influenced by the tv shows with their own kinds of extreme movement, turn to art dance. Will simple speak alongside flashy?

Most of our work has been created by non disabled choreographers. I know that as we strive, for example, to move in unison, that I feel a lot of pressure on the disabled dancers to “keep up.” The rhetorical and movement dynamics are almost without exception focused on translation/adaptation. And, as part of being able to dance in these ways, we have become ever more adept at making the extraordinary look like “ordinary dance.”

Katja at brokenclay.org/journal: 2010 Longmont Triathlon

Based on last year’s experience, one of the other wheelchair athletes and I met with the race director a week before the race to talk about the logistics of including wheelchair athletes and especially to deal with some of the problems in the run course. It was mostly on a bike path with a lot of bad pavement and thorns. There was some very tight turns, difficult to do with a 5-6 foot long racing wheelchair. And there were portions over grass and curbs. We walked (rolled, biked) the course, and came up with some alternatives. We also had to alter the way the wheelchair athletes exited to the pool to go the transition area as the existing route included steps and grass.

Andrew Seidman at the Miami Herald: House panel: FEMA unready to help the disabled in a disaster

Almost five years after Hurricane Katrina, the federal government remains woefully unprepared to rescue at-risk groups of people in the path of a catastrophe, a congressional panel charged on Tuesday.

A House Homeland Security subcommittee challenged the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Office of Disability Integration and Coordination to explain how its budget of $150,000 and its staff of four people could possibly execute an effective rescue plan for the aged, disabled and institutionalized.

Elizabeth at globecampus.ca: Student-built app allows disabled transit riders to get help from smartphones

Research from tech-savvy students at Ryerson University is helping disabled passengers navigate a subway line halfway around the world.

Their work, part of a push by the Toronto campus to tap student know-how to create new digital products, is allowing riders on one line of the Paris Metro to use their smartphones to get directions, plan their trip and ask for assistance from transit staff. Closer to home, the group is hoping to test the student-developed application on the GO train’s Lakeshore and Richmond Hill lines this fall.

taniada at Cynical Idealism: Untitled (Video with transcription)

Throughout history, people with physical and mental disabilities have been abandoned at birth, banished from society used as court jesters, drowned and burned during the Inquisition, gassed in Nazi Germany, and still continue to be segregated, institutionalized, tortured in the name of behavior management, abused, raped, euthanized, and murdered. Now, for the first time, people with disabilities are taking their rightful place as fully contributing citizens. The danger is that we will respond with remediation and benevolence rather then equity and respect. And so, we offer you a credo for support.

If you’re on Delicious, feel free to tag entries ‘disfem’ or ‘disfeminists,’ or ‘for:feminists’ to bring them to our attention! Link recommendations can also be emailed to recreading[@]disabledfeminists[.]com

Videos: Creative Work

I’m back on a video kick this week.

Up first, a modern dance composition by Laura Jones. ‘Re:Bound’ is a very dynamic piece. Jones moves sinuously, using her whole body very expressively, and the music is rather moody. You can read an interview with Laura Jones published at Ballet-Dance Magazine if you’re interested in learning more about her. Here’s an excerpt from the interview:

At the age of 16, a week into starting my course, I suffered from a spinal bleed which left me paralysed from the chest down. So, just when I had decided what I really wanted to do, I felt it was taken away from me.  But my tutors at college were just fantastic. They said: “Come back and finish, at least some parts of the course… you’ll still be able to do the theory… so, come back!”  As the course progressed, they kept saying: “Well, I don’t see why you shouldn’t do this part of the course as well … and you can do your solo choreography … and you can do the set study, surely… and why don’t you try to do the notation as well?” So with their support and encouragement, I ended up completing the whole of the course and became the first student to complete 100% of the Dance A-Level in a wheelchair! And that’s something that no one can take away from me!

And the dance piece itself:

I’m a huge fan of this American Sign Language (ASL) music video; it’s an interpretation of ‘Single Ladies’ by Beyonce. It’s a very catchy pop tune; you can find the lyrics here. Jubil Khan, the performer, is deliciously talented and expressive. The choreography is fairly simple. She’s mostly standing in front of a wall, facing the camera and Signing while dancing. For an ASL version of ‘Single Ladies’ with choreography, you can check out another version here.

Here’s an interesting time-lapse video of Mariam, a member of the US Association of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists, creating a piece called ‘Larval Eye Hive.’ I admit to having an irresistible adoration for time-lapse videos of works of art and architecture being created; I love watching things sprout on the page or the landscape. Your mileage may vary, but I hope it’s at least a bit interesting for you!

The video shows her from start to finish, using her mouth to manipulate pastels and other drawing tools. There is a sound track, but it’s just music (which I didn’t find particularly scintillating). The finished piece is a humanoid figure wearing a striped shirt. The figure’s face has a very long nose and four sets of eyes in different colours, and the background has text in block letters: ‘Interworldness beyond the ever flowing never known in the larval eyes hive of this life that like the simile that smiles come back to cla-[I didn’t catch the rest because the camera kept shying away]’

Come and Take A Spin With Me…

A mix of short and long today!

Aaron Piepszny and Spirit Synott perform to Ani DiFranco’s ’32 Flavors.’ This is a contemporary dance piece with a lot of movement and explorations of physical as well as emotional relationships. Aaron and Spirit work really well together!

Lisa Bufano performing an excerpt from ‘Five Open Mouths,’ also a modern piece. The full length version of this piece is also available if you’re interested in more.

Wheelchair breakdancing! Warning, this video is shaky.

Couples wheelchair dancing in Sweden at a freestyle combo competition.

Dancing With Gaga

Several of the FWD/Forward contributors are fans of Lady Gaga, so when I encountered a Sign version of ‘Paparazzi,’ I was pretty delighted. I got even more delighted when I realised that there is actually a very large genre of signed versions of Lady Gaga’s songs, and pulled a sampling to post here. Please feel free to add links to more Gaga-related disability performance and dance videos in the comments, because these are only the tip of the iceberg!

Deaf YouTube user zephyreros Signs an American Sign Language version of ‘So Happy I Could Die.’ (Lyrics for ‘So Happy I Could Die.’)

‘Bad Romance’ in American Sign Language by LoveJennivere. (Lyrics for ‘Bad Romance.’)

Jeremy Neiderer, another Deaf YouTuber, performing ‘Paparazzi’ in American Sign Language. (Lyrics for ‘Paparazzi.’)

YouTuber Lee, who has Asperger’s and Tourette’s, Signing ‘Poker Face’ in British Sign Language. (Lyrics for ‘Poker Face.’)

I can’t mention Lady Gaga without pointing y’all to Annaham’s ‘Disability Chic? (Temporary) Disability in Lady Gaga’s ‘Paparazzi’.’ Gaga’s work is, as we like to say, Not Without Problems and I’d welcome discussions of her handling of disability, gender, and other issues in comments as well.