I’m just back from shadowing a fantastic weekend of theatre at the Unity Festival in Cardiff. Managed by Hijinx Theatre the festival brings the best of inclusive and disability arts to one fortnight in Cardiff. It’s NOT about celebrating disabled artists because they are overcoming adversity, it IS about celebrating fantastic art, which just happens to feature artists with (as well as without) disabilities.
The festival gave me a great opportunity to connect with companies, and to gain invaluable experience of outdoor performance, as I spent a great deal of time shadowing Kazzum’s ‘Addressed to a friend’ and Graeae’s ‘The Iron Man’.
One of the first performances I saw was the incredible Cia Jose Galan. A company of four flamenco dancers which included two learning disabled performers.
I’m no expert on flamenco, but what I can say is the hour long piece felt like twenty minutes, I was captivated by the skill, precision, passion and humour of the performers. But also I was challenged. I’ve always held a bit of a belief that regimented training is the wrong approach for Learning Disabled artists, and that more can be gained from developing a movement vocabulary of your own. A view that Learning Disabled performers should not be forced to try to emulate the performance styles of non-disabled performers, just as a non-disabled performer should not try to perform as a learning disabled person. But seeing the dancers of Cia Jose Galan, their precision, the clear joy, confidence, but also adaptation and fluidity evident in their movement totally shifted my opinions.
The weekend also gave me opportunities to see work by Kazzum, Graeae, Taking Flight, Mind the Gap, Odyssey, Bicycle Ballet and Natural Diversions, and tonnes of ideas and inspiration with regards to integrated signing and audio description. A highlight was the opportunity to become one of Mind the Gap’s ‘Wind up merchants’ operating an air raid siren as part of the fantastic ‘Irresistible’, a piece which I had wanted to see since I first heard of it’s Unlimited commission, many moons ago.
Here’s hoping I can return to the festival in 2014!