Close your eyes and picture a dancer – male or female it doesn’t matter which. Got one in your mind? Chances are you are either visualising a young ultra slim white woman, probably in a tutu or a young fit white man in tights? Me too and then I went to the press performance of “Equation” at the Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler’s Wells and realised just how much my own unconscious bias influenced my thoughts. “Equation” is the culmination of Sadler’s =dance programme giving a platform for works created and performed by deaf and disabled artists and inclusive companies. The programme I saw consisted of four separate pieces followed by a panel discussion on the programme as a whole.
The first piece was “The Soundman” from Deaf Men Dancing, followed by “Missing” by Laura Dajao & Hearns Sebuado, next up we saw “Remember Me” from Marc Brew and finally “Artificial Things, Movement Three” from the Stopgap Dance Company. Four unique works that destroyed every preconception of dance that I had in my head and made me realise that despite all the advances being made in the field of EDI – particularly following the success of the 2014 Paralympic Games, there is still a great deal to be done to recognise the skill and ingenuity of these dancers who utilised their disability to produce wonderful dance.
It’s impossible to pick a favourite piece out of the four and to be honest I wouldn’t want to. “Equation” was not a competition and each company was there on their own merits. For example, the superb fluidity of Dave Tool from Stopgap was amazing to see as he almost seemed to float around the stage during ‘“Artificial Things” and the almost complete role-reversal of traditional ballet roles in “Missing” with Hearns Sebuado being led by Laura Dajao with both her body and her wheelchair used to support him in his movements. Each of the pieces had their stand out moments for me. Apart from the two already mentioned, the use of film by Choreographer/Dancer Marc Drew at the start of “Remember When” with the two escalators dominating the dance almost as an example of the indifference of society to disabled people and their need to move around buildings was a powerful image for me. And finally “The Soundman” where Mark Smith uses the vibrations of sound – not just music but also conversations around him – as the means of choreographing his dancers. The effect enhanced for the audience by the appearance of the sound as an oscilloscope visualisation on the wall behind them reminding us once more that sound can be seen, felt and ‘heard in many different ways.
The panel discussion, chaired by Sadler’s Wells Artistic Director and CE Alistair Spalding was illuminating in many ways. It is great that Sadler’s are promoting deaf and disabled dance alongside the more traditional programmes but, as Marc Brew pointed out, in these days of austerity, small and regional theatres are not always willing or able to take the ‘risk’ – as they see it – of putting on something that is different from the norm. In my opinion, this is to the detriment of the dance-loving audience who may sometimes need a kick up the proverbial backside to tell them that dance is actually the only limitless art form there is. It doesn’t need the ‘able’ bodied, language, props fancy costumes, big stages or huge lighting rigs to convey its story and lead the audience into a world of wonder where everything is possible and there really are no limits.
Review by Terry Eastham
Sadler’s Wells completed the inaugural year of the =dance series with two programmes of work; a mixed programme entitled Equation and a triple bill from Corali dance company in the Lilian Baylis Studio on 21 & 22 March 2015. In the biggest presentation of inclusive dance ever programmed by the theatre, =dance aims to present some of the most exciting and innovative work created and performed by both established and emerging deaf and disabled artists. =dance also includes a programme of workshops, discussions and professional development opportunities alongside each performance.
Opening the weekend performances on Saturday 21 March was Equation, presenting highlights from featured companies and artists from the first year of =dance, followed by a discussion around the contribution of their work to the =dance series and its impact on the dance sector. The =dance discussion was be chaired by Sadler’s Wells Artistic Director and Chief Executive, Alistair Spalding.
Monday 23rd March 2015