Dancing Difference // Moving Forward
Review by Mark Kunji Ikeda
The Fluid Festival and Inside Out Theatre combined to bring Calgary a treat of the possibilities of mixed-ability performance. The program title “Dancing Difference” had been forsaken at the request of the performers for the much more inclusive title “Moving Forward.” This is an important distinction as the original title highlighted how we are different as opposed to celebrating the movement potential that we share. As the evening moved forward, it was clear that there was much to celebrate in the national mixed-ability performance community.
The first piece, See and Be Seen was created by former Calgarian Naomi Brand through the Vancouver company All Bodies Dance Project. The piece explored the possibilities of two bodies and a mobility tool. It exemplified how bodies can move, and how a wheelchair can assist and extend choreographic possibilities to encompass the unique fluidity and potentially dangerous images that could be achieved by Adam Warren and Carolina Bergonzoni. Warren moved with powerful complexity that can’t help but remind me of a young version of the late Thomas Poulsen - who is remembered as a mainstay in Calgary’s performance and disability communities.
What’s Left of Us features the grand theatricality described as “two 2 spirited ndns with only two hands between them.” The grand entrance bring a delightful juxtaposition when then two performers triumphantly extend their left hands and pause to bring full attention to their partially formed left hands. Justin Manyfingers and Brian Soloman’s disarming exploration of their youth is supported by quirky recording from both performers, and a truly beautiful interview with Soloman’s mother. While the piece occasionally felt like two solos, the parallels of their journeys were woven together through compelling physicality, highlighted by tangible emotional honesty.
Heidi Janz’s film We Regret to Inform You was a riveting example of how our healthcare system is set up at the disadvantage of persons with disabilities. The film takes us through daily tasks in the life of the PhD playwright who has cerebral palsy. The film highlights the admirable patience that the affable Janz brings to certain tasks which require her full attention - such as typing, or operating the elevator. Meanwhile, a chipper female voice informs us that Ms Janz has been denied disability insurance income due to her being too “productive” and earning her PhD. The event was highlighted when Janz’s Calgary Access bus arrived early and threatened to leave without her, requiring a hasty exit rather than enjoying the accolades she deserved.
Finally, All Bodies Dance Project returned with Verbatim, a look into the curious world of those who live near us, and how our assumptions shape how we interact with others. Supported by a simple grey folding table and voice recordings, Warren and Bergonzoni create a full apartment block of unknown faces who all ask “what are they doing in there?” The assortment of unknown characters were humorous and relatable in how we view others, before underlining the inherent similarities that these neighbours - and each of us - share.