Body Shift: Cripping the Streets

** Heads up! Today’s performance of Crippin’ the Streets will begin at the Wells Fargo Bank Plaza at 111 Congress Avenue (NOT in front of the US Courthouse as previously stated).**

BodyShift embraces the idea that everyone, in every kind of body, can move in interesting and compelling ways. Follow us as we crip the concept of dance, leaving behind the notion of “normal” bodies and traditional form. BodyShift’s site-specific mixed-ability performance redefines “dancer” by moving disability out of the shadows and onto the street in an innovative, highly collaborative improvisational dance through downtown Austin. Our procession will begin in front of the US courthouse at 4th and Congress, travel through Republic Square and onward to the City Hall plaza.

Since the 1980s, there has been a shift in the world of disability and mixed-ability performance from one of predominantly inspirational narratives that portray people overcoming their disability, to work that embraces such differences. People with disabilities have reclaimed the word crip or cripping from once derogatory connotations. Now, it’s effectively used to expose arbitrary distinctions between “normal” and “defective” bodies. This is why I chose to call our upcoming performance in the Fusebox Festival Cripping the Streets. In our rehearsal process, diversity is viewed as an asset that encourages the dancers to discover new ways of moving and interacting with one another using the fundamentals of dance improvisation as a shared language. Athleticism and tricks are secondary to the movement produced by raw, non-verbal communication. Each dancer, regardless of ability, is empowered by working within a context that allows them to make choices related to the other dancers and their environment. This is particularly important in terms of representation of people with disabilities since they are often portrayed as passive or unable to do things for themselves, let alone support and be intimate with others.

Body Shift is made up of a core group of teachers, dancers, and organizers committed to offering classes that are accessible to people of all abilities along with performance opportunities for more advanced participants. We chose to emphasize improvisation in an effort to allow the dancers to make movement choices in terms of level, spatial relationship, timing, and overall design of the space based on their own unique way of moving rather than enforcing strict choreography. We encourage interpretation rather than imitation. Our hope is that the audience will appreciate how movement is achieved and executed in unexpected ways. With Cripping the Streets, we decided to perform outside of a traditional theatre to discourage comparisons with classical or modern dance aesthetics. Dancing in public spaces also gives us the opportunity to attract an incidental audience that may not otherwise seek out a mixed-ability performance. Our street parade will be accompanied by Michael Joplin, aka DJ Manateemann, who will improvise hip hop beats.


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