Disabilities— mental or physical— have seen a great deal of research in the last century. There is a new tone that uplifts those who were once marginalized and excluded, to now being seen as able and celebrated: particularly in the world of art. When dancers with disabilities take to the stage, does the audience admire a piece well done, or do they judge by different standards, those who must work twice as hard and amend choreography to varying degrees? According to Luca Patuelli, a professional breakdancer with arthrogryposis (a condition that stunts the growth of muscles, leaving him wheelchair-bound), there are ways to maintain the artistic aesthetic, while embracing the things that make us different.
Luca Patuelli, aka Lazylegz, at work:
The reach to include dancers and movers of all strengths doesn’t stop here. There is a dance company by the name of Gimp, based out of Manhattan, that honors many of the differences and abilities of physically challenged dancers. “The goal is to honor each person’s really specific ways of moving, really specific, unique personalities,” said Heidi Latsky, the dancer and choreographer who founded Gimp. Dances are choreographed to mold to the dancer, promoting the value of strength and celebration in all dancers who wish to be a part of a piece.
In the words of one of the company’s dancers, Lawrence Carter-Long, he doesn’t let his cerebral palsy get in the way of his dancing– or making light of an otherwise stigmatic situation: “This is no safe prearranged marriage of dance and disability. This is a collision. This is two worlds coming together that ain’t supposed to co-exist.”