Gathered Together

Tramway, Glasgow

Four Stars

Workshops, films, discussions - even before the public performances at night, this four day festival of inclusive dance, curated and hosted by Glasgow’s Indepen-dance, had made it clear that disability and creativity are in a partnership that’s gaining ground worldwide.

On-stage, this positive action translated into an array of dance pieces – some performed by experienced professionals, others full of community group energies, but all of them connecting into questions of how people with disability are regarded/ disregarded by society.

The final piece in the programme, Monkey Minds by Platform-K (from Belgium) was a bold, abrasively forthright - and deliberately funny - piece about relationships between five adults, three of whom have Down’s Syndrome.

We’re mostly talking sex, here. Still something of a taboo area in the public’s perception of what’s “appropriate” for people with disability. Masked and semi-naked, the bodies dipped into animalistic behaviours, unmasked and clothed they acted with everyday urges that ranged from a bit of boozing and clubbing to re-enacted, vigorous couplings - the in-yer-face challenge to us was: how do you see us? Are we “allowed”, in your eyes, to be sexual beings? or - as in the final moments - find loving tenderness with some-one else, some-one who doesn’t have Down’s? A real, gutsy whammy of a performance.

Issues of personal identity, of battling with other people’s prejudices, were to the fore in works by Dirty Feet Dance Company/Waterbaby Dance, by Misiconi Dance Company (Netherlands) and by wheelchair-user Jodie Taylor, whose nicely bolshie Behind Closed Doors created moments where, as a young disabled woman, she literally wasn’t in step with those around her – but, lip gloss on, she was still ready to be a part of the dance in her own terms... and they could join her, in her moves.

Taylor is also part of Paragon Music’s group and their Jigsaw Waltzy was a truly, gorgeously, inclusive piece where live music met dance and there was a spirit of equal sharing between disabled/non-disabled performers. And how brilliant to see a feisty group of eleven lads in Overdrive Dance Company go into Lord of the Flies mode with Terra – a real lava-flow of hi-energy interactions, where survival wasn’t always at the expense of the disabled.

There was more, of course, including Indepen-dance’s own triple bill which those who saw it - and those of us who had to miss it - would love to see as a standalone showing before too long. You’ll have gathered, by now, that together these performances added up to a celebration of diversity and artistic aspiration - a life-affirming experience for everyone.