The Oval Space will be a physical exploration into the perception of disability whether it is a visible, invisible or concealed impairment. Choreographed by emerging artist Kevin French, the first disabled student to graduate from Plymouth University with a dance degree, with mentoring support from Adam Benjamin.
As a dancer / choreographer with a severe disability and speech problem, until people witness I can dance they are dismissive. Even when working on a non-specific disabled piece my body shades the moves and audiences perceptions are influenced by my participation, often with unforeseen narratives. In my experience through the hiding of physical, emotional and confidence problems experienced by people these issues can become a burden and sometimes impair the sufferers daily lives, often leading to isolation. I want to explore these everyday occurrences through the pursuit of perceived ‘normality’. The work will reference Franklin D Roosevelt in his well known attempt to cover up his disability. He went to great lengths to hide his polio rack body how the oval office was built to give wheelchair access.
R&D Week 17th August
“The R&D week with Kevin was an entirely new experience for me, but one which I was willing to embrace. I realised going into the week that I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect but actually this was a good thing for me as the challenges we faced were dependant on the day, and the dancers in the room. These challenges have, in a week, helped to improve my problem solving, communication and people skills. The experience of working with such a varied company is invaluable.” Lucy Freeman
“Last week was extremely inspiring and I feel I developed as an artist in how I respond to a choreographer and with working within an inclusive environmentOverall I felt it was a learning curve from holding back quite a lot at the beginning to really moulding as a group towards the end.” Heather Walrond
“Last weeks research and development period was truly inspiring. It was a completely new experience working with Kevin French as a choreographer as I have only worked with him previously as a dancer for the Impact tour. It was an unknown territory that I allowed myself to completely embrace in. It was extremely refreshing coming into the studio working with such open creative tasks but also very difficult at times as I usually work with more guidance, instructions and tasks. The week was very much worked through a patient process, heavily working with the management of the energy and that of everybody’s individual needs.” Laura Henry
“The week led by Kevin was a journey for me. Firstly physically as I was unaware of what my limitations were. Secondly emotionally because I had not worked with anybody in the room before, except briefly on the audition day. During the third day the entire mood shifted after being challenged with setting a dance piece centred around chairs. This provided a mental/physical constriction that we were able to build ideas from. At the end of the week I felt as though the relationship with the other dancers had blossomed into genuine friendship. As I danced I felt that my physical vocabulary had began to expand which was also helped by, other people contributing to.” Lynsey Dart
“Working with Kevin in the studio was such a new and unique experience for me as a dancer. I have worked with Kevin previously on work by other choreographers so knew a small amount about how he works choreographically but not anything that could have prepared me for this week. It was such a positive experience, I feel that the week started off slowly. As there were 6 of us and none of us apart from myself and Laura had worked together before, we spent the first couple of days figuring each other out and how we moved together as a group and problem solved. The choreographic process was slow and confusing to begin with as I felt that due to Kevin’s lack of communication we didn’t get many notes, choreographic cues or information for tasks from him but later on discovered that this is how he wanted it to be anyway. I struggled with this at first as I feel that I normally get a lot more from the choreographer in terms of what they want, but later learnt that sometimes the choreographer doesn’t necessarily know what they want and leaving the tasks and movement generation quite open allowed us as dancers more freedom to explore not only ourselves but each other. There were many obstacles along the way in term of props being used and the piece being inclusive. We learnt more about inclusion and listening to each other in order to be more productive in the space. By mid week, it had clicked for us. We produced some of our most interesting movement and I feel that all of us began to open up to each other and be more expressive and accommodating each others needs whether that be lack of or difficulty in communication or movement. I really enjoyed working with Lindsay and Laura on our chair trio towards the end of the week, it was quite exciting for me to be exploring movement with them and uncovering what Lindsay could do. As she hasn’t danced it was all very new to her and discovering how much movement she had and how much she could do and how we could use this in choreography was very exciting.” Emma Pendle