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More on visibility… / 25 February 2012

I've been thinking more about visibility since Wednesday when I watched a fantastic performance by StopGAP. In dance, the wheelchair attempts to shed its magical cloaking properties and without it a dancer’s personal space shrinks to that required by skin and bone. 

Dancer Laura Jones set me thinking about my own special relationship with metal, rubber and memory foam. Never having worked with a wheelchair before, choreographer Thomas Noone took Laura's away. And enabled the most explicit piece of Disability Art I personally have ever seen danced. The storyline of Within was almost a distraction.

Here was a work that acknowledged and explored the visibility and invisibility: the need to be larger than life; a work that played with the symbolic and made wheelchair substitutes out of people; a work that boldly acknowledged the elephant in the room and made the absent wheelchair the hero.

The dance was breathtaking; the timing, the risk-taking: an emotional roller-coaster and the sense of commitment and solidarity: heart-wrenching. This was StopGap being superb.

I came away from the performance wondering if I’ve taken for granted that blurring of the line between me and my chair; if having my personal space reinforced by metal rods and spikes has altered my perception of where I belong within it and how I present to strangers. Unable to escape the comfort of memory foam, I may have lost something important to me.

My feet
never touched the ground
though my body ached
to embrace it. Eyes,
resenting the lines
the homogenous
imposition of
a bland point of view,
rejoiced to be free.
And the price, the pain,
the good and the bad:
contradiction made
laughter and weeping
My body ached though
my feet never touched
the ground.


StopGAP Dance Company took Trespass to Salisbury Arts Centre as part of their current tour; it features Within (Thomas Noone) and Splinter (Rob Tannion).

Their next performance is on 8th March at Marlowe Studio, The Friars, Canterbury, Kent CT1 3AS


Keywords: dance,invisible disabled people,poetry,stopgap,wheelchair users