TaPra: Performance and the Body Working Group

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventConference


'The place of the performer with learning disabilities: Thoughts on presence, virtuosity and social constructions of the (dis)abled artist'. In response to the areas of possible focus outlined in the call for participation at the Theatre and performance research Association annual conference this contribution came under the categories of body as site of performance and bodies, class and classification. The paper will considered tensions between the ongoing social constructions in the UK of art as beneficial and the place of the artist with disabilities constructed as beneficiary. As arguments in Disability Studies foreground social constructions of learning disability so too the bureaucratic place holders of ‘the arts’ construct artists with learning disabilities as beneficiaries. Through examples of moments taken from practice based research the researcher discusses alternative perceptions of dance-theatre made by and with performers with learning disabilities. Issues of training and virtuosic performance are juxtaposed with the notion of the presence of the untrained performer as equally compelling yet this itself gives rise to certain ethical dilemmas for the spectator and the director. The political potential of such moments of performances of alternative beauty prompts awareness to alternative ground to that of the territory of beneficiary. Unsettling categorization and opening this wider territory of aesthetic appreciation may create a place for the artist with cognitive difference that dispenses with instrumental binary designations of beneficiary, and expert professional. However rather than argue against training endeavours, the focus will be on how performers with learning disabilities might develop other practices of rigour and discipline through commitment to the work of performance.
Period05 Sept 2014
Event typeConference
LocationEgham, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandShow on map