History, performativity, and dialectics

Critical spectatorship in learning disabled performance

Authored by: Dave Calvert

The Routledge Handbook of Disability Arts, Culture, and Media

Print publication date:  December  2018
Online publication date:  December  2018

Print ISBN: 9780815368410
eBook ISBN: 9781351254687
Adobe ISBN:


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In her analytical exploration of the Australian dance company Restless, Anna Catherine Hickey-Moody follows Deleuze and Guattari in noting that her “experiences of dancers ‘with’ intellectual disability challenging staid psychological limits which are often imposed upon them, are a local instance of ‘turning away’ from history” (Hickey-Moody 2009, xix). During the collaborative encounter between non-disabled and learning disabled dancers, new ways of understanding each other emerge through physical and sensory connections that cannot yet be articulated: they escape history because they have not been fixed in place by its narrative. The imposition of psychological limits on the dancers is itself effected by historical narratives since such limits are “generally constructed through majoritarian cultural understandings of intellectual disability” (Hickey-Moody 2009, xix). As an identity, learning disability has been shaped by a dominant non-disabled perception which views it as a state of being defined by inherent limitations, a self-contained identity that cannot be, or become, other than itself. During collaborative acts of creative experiment and performance, the dancers appear beyond history by exceeding, and contesting, such presumed limitations.

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