Spotlight: Katherine Kumpula

Katherine Kumpula.

Katherine Kumpula, on a recent visit to Calgary.

For Katherine Kumpula, dance is a “never-ending art.”

“Dance is a multi-dimensional experience [that] encompasses so many of the senses,” said the Toronto-based dancer. “The music, the timing, the visual aspect of everything from the audience’s perspective. Then, there’s the whole story behind it. Exploring all of those is such a multi-faceted experience.”

Kumpula started dancing at the age of three, beginning with classical ballet. As the years went on, the dancer, intrigued by the abstract, pushed towards contemporary dance. Kumpula attributes the shift in styles to her growing into her own as a dancer.

“Behind dance there is always the technique, and that’s what everyone starts with because you need the foundation in order to progress,” explained Kumpula. “The early years are often…technique-based. You spend a long time building your technique.”

“As you get older, you get to experiment with things…the creativity came out a lot more as I got older. Thinking about a piece of dance as a full thing onto itself beyond its technique.”

Today, Kumpula applies what she has learned over the years with Silhouettes Dance Company.

Founded in 2002 by Caryl Mostacho and Alesia Kachur, Silhouettes Dance Company is a performance-based dance troupe at the University of Toronto that performs several times over the year, ending its season with an annual showcase. The company adheres to values that promote a positive learning environment where both new and seasoned dancers can learn from one another.

“It’s choreography that’s made by the company members,” said Kumpula about Silhouettes Dance Company. “It is a space where there isn’t really a ton of restriction on the kind of choreography you can make. It’s a free space for people to experiment with different ideas.”

Katherine Kumpula,

Katherine Kumpula, “The Nights,” Silhouettes Dance (2015). Photo Credit: John Yelinek.

Last year, she choreographed a piece for the company that explored the dancer’s quest for perfection. It is an experience dancers know all too well, says Kumpula.

“The quest for perfection and how you’ve got this ideal you are working towards, but you’ll never quite get there. That’s a very angst-filled experience, and it’s a very emotional experience for a lot of dancers…because you’re always trying to fit this ideal which is essentially impossible to fit. By the very nature of it, it will never be perfect, but there is a big pressure with how demanding dance is to be perfect.”

But these days, dance is more an escape for Kumpula than something that causes her stress.

“[Dance] is very therapeutic. It’s therapeutic for me to have that [creative] outlet and to do something totally different than what I am doing the rest of the time,” said Kumpula who works at the hospital as a nurse.

Kumpula says dance is important too for the social connection, connecting with those who have a wide-variety of interests and, at the same time, want to keep their passion for dance alive. And though her journey through dance has seen many changes over the years, Kumpula’s passion for dance has been constant.

After all, dance is never-ending.


For more information about Silhouettes Dance Company, visit: http://silhouettes.sa.utoronto.ca/

MoMo Dance Theatre Springs Forward With I Didn’t Wear My Raincoat

Pictured, MoMo Dance Theatre's Performance Ensemble member Kathy Austin in

Pictured, Kathy Austin in “We Have Come To Be Danced” (April ’12). Audiences can catch Austin in I Didn’t Wear My Raincoat which opens March 26th at the Vertigo Studio Theatre. Photo Credit: Matthew Brucker

Later this month, MoMo Dance Theatre will be presenting I Didn’t Wear My Raincoat. The company’s latest production will explore the four seasons with original work from its performance ensemble members and new work created by guest artists.

And as the company prepares for opening night, Artistic Director Mark Ikeda remembers when he first started working with MoMo Dance Theatre two years ago.

“Just walking into that door was like walking into a big hug. Everyone was so welcoming and just wanted to see what I had to share, and was so ready to engage” said Ikeda who was teaching workshops for the company at the time.

When it was announced that then Artistic Director Pam Boyd was leaving the company, Ikeda lept at the opportunity to fill the position. Ikeda says he was not only taken by the overwhelming positivity of the MoMo family, but that he was also impressed by the skill level going in.

“There are some challenges…but being able to launch into the work and really dig into some ideas has never been a problem…when I was welcomed by that idea I was enticed into the MoMo family.”

Founded in 2003, MoMo Mixed Ability Dance Theatre offers artists of all abilities and skill levels a range of classes focused on growth through creative movement. Currently, the company offers three adult classes and two youth classes. As well, MoMo offers performance opportunities for its members.

Part of the company’s mission is to facilitate artistic expression by removing barriers that might otherwise restrict the exchange of ideas between artists. For Ikeda, a combination of improvised and choreographed movement works best to achieve this mandate.

“While we do we have set choreography…other times we’ll explore a mood or an emotion or a thought or a color, even. Let’s say we’re exploring sunshine…we’re all going to move like sunshine until someone claps. And so, in that while everyone is in the same or at least similar idea and adapting it to their own bodies…they can move how they like to move and interpret the idea of sunshine [as they like]. It’s open to exploration.”

But in order for this exploration to truly take off, Ikeda says, an individual must first feel comfortable within the space. Ikeda explains that this turning point usually occurs after three classes.

“If someone will come to three classes, they’ll usually open up. That’s kind of the shifting point… for someone totally new to feel comfortable and engage in the activities. And so, after three classes, there’s that open – and again it’s like that family idea of who are you and how we can play? How can we enjoy each other in this art?”

This year, the first in a three year process, MoMo launched an outreach program to share their passion for play with various communities.

With funds received by The Calgary Foundation, the company has been able to partner with URSA (Universal Rehabilitation Service Agency), the Calgary Association of Self-Help, the Vecova Centre, and Carewest Garrison Green. In these spaces, MoMo’s dance teachers promote community and personal development through interdisciplinary, communal physical activity. What results is a holistic approach to wellness, something the partner organizations have praised.

“There’s a bunch of papers out right now about how interdisciplinary and communal physical activity is one of the strongest ways of bringing someone into an idea of what a community is…and the idea of empathy that if you’re doing the same thing as I am, I can see that not only are we a team, but you have your own unique way of doing things.”

“A lot of those intangibles…can’t really be measured or quantified…[but] when you can engage with someone creatively…be able to go into yourself, find an idea or thought or something that hasn’t existed either in you or outside of you before and share it with other people there is an intelligible connection that happens…MoMo has for over a decade now found a way to set that up for people who identify as having disabilities.”

And with MoMo’s spring performance fast approaching, the company looks to add another success to an already great year.

A dance piece audiences can expect to see in the production is one choreographed by Ikeda which incorporates the use of hand stilts. Hand stilts have been famously used in the Broadway adaptation of The Lion King to portray giraffes. Ensemble member Thomas Poulsen, who uses crutches, will be the performer raised off the ground alongside Ikeda.

“[I thought about] what would be a great duet with [Thomas] or piece for him. I thought of these hand stilts and how a lot of the movement I have to do to stay up on the hand stilts are quite similar to the movement he uses everyday and he uses on the dance floor. We’ve been exploring for a few weeks now and I really love where it’s going.”

And it is this love for play and exploration that makes MoMo Dance Theatre a company to watch.


MoMo Dance Theatre’s I Didn’t Wear My Raincoat runs March 26 – 28 at the Vertigo Studio Theatre.

Tickets can be purchased online here: momo.brownpapertickets.com

For more information on the company, visit: http://www.momodancetheatre.org/

Soulocentric’s Dance Cabaret Features Diverse Original Works by Local, National Dancers

Shelby Jansen and Allison Zwozdesky duke it out in Cooking Truths, one of eleven works presented in Soulocentric's Dance Cabaret. Photo Credit: Ben Laird Arts and Photo

Allison Zwozdesky (left) and Shelby Jansen (right) duke it out in Cooking Truths, one of eleven works presented in Soulocentric’s Dance Cabaret. Photo Credit: Ben Laird Arts and Photo

Presented at West Village Theatre, Soulocentric’s Dance Cabaret is a showcase of original works by both emerging and professional dancers. The Dance Cabaret runs as part of the company’s 2015 Contemporary Performance Showcase, formerly known as the Soulocentric Dance Festival.

Ranging in style and tone, the Dance Cabaret comprises of eleven works choreographed and performed by local and national dancers.

The showcase opens with Tangy Lime Dance Projects’ baBBLe ON, a contemporary stilt dance piece. Stilt dancer Allara Gooliaf impresses with the control and ease of effort she displays moving to the sounds of a bustling city. The urban soundscape mixed with Julie Funk’s active movement is reminiscent of the 1998 film Run Lola Run. The piece runs smoothly until Tara Blue, who is also on stilts, starts singing. The loud music overpowers the dancer who simply cannot compete, thus making the audience lost on the lyrics. As a result, the piece ends on a weak note.

Next, Kelsey Hanna and Megan Fraser take the stage for their contemporary piece From Silence. Hanna and Fraser, both professional graduate students from the School of Alberta Ballet, are a tight pairing in this piece that explores the difficulty of loving that which cause one pain.

Dario Charles’ solo piece Without Face follows. Charles confidently exposes and plays with the the impact social conventions have on our capacity for real, unmediated human interactions. One way Charles does this is by creating uneasiness through inactivity. Sitting down, adjusting himself for maximum comfort, Charles takes a stand against the expectations of the audience – performer relationship. Then, through repeated motions, the dancer emphasizes the scripted nature of our relationships with the other. Overall, Charles presents an interesting piece. (Although, at one point, Charles’ own script refers to non-existent armrests which does remove us from the narrative).

Natalka Lewis and her company Trip The Light Dance present Dandelion Children. A collaborative effort between Lewis and her seven dancers (Misha Behnia, Madison Dixon, Odessa Johnston, Christina Robertson, Janelle Shiffner, Jordan Wallan & Katherine Mandolidis), Dandelion Children stages the abusive relationship between a mother and her daughter. The ensemble reflects the complexity of these relationships in a recurring phrase of movement where one dancer supports the other, only to drop her suddenly onto the floor. And then, they switch positions; the abuser becomes the abused. The choreography is well-thought out, and clearly presents the narrative it sets out to tell. Although, the choreography does lack an exact moment where the daughter, played by Lewis, comes into her own, leaving something to be desired in terms of a cohesive resolution.

Halifax-based dance company Votive Dance tells its own narrative of control in Proven Lands (choreography by Catherine Hayward). Kathleen Doherty plays a sinister character/force that sets out to corrupt and manipulate Stephanie Mitro’s character who attempts to resist her influence. Doherty embodies very well the weight of conformity on the individual, and Mitro displays a great vulnerability in the piece. The piece does lose some steam near its end, which is drawn out quite slowly, but overall it is a solid piece from start to finish.

Der schuh-shoe-La chaussure, choreographed by Jason Owin Galeos, is the last piece before intermission. Interested in the shoes we wear and where they take us in life, the piece begins with four dancers – Galeos, Cenzia Nina Aviles, Meghann Michalsky, and Chandler Smith – who walk on stage holding in their arms various footwear. The piece fails to make its intentions clear, thus making it feel like a missed opportunity. Galeos’s choreography attempts to grasp onto a central idea, but leaves the audience with little going into intermission.

Taking us into the second act is Metamorphsis, choreographed and performed by Krizia Canvas Carlos and Aris Nsungani. Carlos and Nsungani light up the stage in this exciting urban dance fusion piece.

Choreographed by Naomi Lawson Baird, Jass Parlour’s Daughters of The Deep is a short jazz piece that features Baird, Kimberley Ilott, and Hannah McCathy. Well-executed, though not particularly memorable.

Performed by Terra Plum, Jessalyn Britton, and Janelle Schiffer, Tri Some blends jazz with West African dance forms. Plum’s upbeat choreography is delivered effortlessly by the dancers. The mix between the two dance styles makes for a very cool piece.

Carisa Hendrix brings a strong stage presence in Just For Me, a solo hula hoop act created by Hendrix. What makes this short, playful piece particularly entertaining is both the speed at which Hendrix maneuvers her hula hoop and the element of risk (e.g. the hoop hitting the floor, bringing the piece to a sudden stop) in the maneuvers she performs.

Shelby Jansen and Allison Zwozdesky bring the night to a close with Cooking Truths. In Cooking Truths, Jansen and Zwozdesky play two celebrity chefs competing against each other in the kitchen. There is an array of fun, bizarre moments, like Jansen plucking her rival’s heart out, that receive big laughs from the audience. And inventive staging keeps the piece moving forward as the dancers flip and fold tables to create big, epic moments of warfare (performed in slow motion, of course). The piece does take time to hit its stride, however, as its first couple minutes are rather clunky and awkward. Moreover, the piece might benefit from a shorter run time as it feels a little too loose in its current state.

Featuring a diverse range of original works, Soulocentric’s Dance Cabaret succeeds at entertaining, and giving audience members the opportunity to witness and support Canada’s independent artists.


Soulocentric’s Contemporary Performance Showcase ran at West Village Theatre, Feb 19-21 2015.

For more information on the company, visit: http://www.soulocentric.org/

 

Keeping Dance Local: En Corps Dance Collective Provides Opportunities for Calgary Dancers

This is Melanie Nightingale’s last year with En Corps Dance Collective, a company she helped found twenty years ago. One of the last founding members remaining, Nightingale says it has been interesting to see how the company has grown since its inception in 1995.

Initially, En Corps was influenced by the style of dance Nightingale and its other founding members were introduced to in Los Angeles during the 1990s.

“A lot of us used to go to Los Angeles to dance in the summertime,” Nightingale explained.”En Corps really started back in fall of ‘95, maybe spring ‘96, because a lot of us dancers – I think there were five or six of us – we wanted to bring a style of dance to Calgary that we didn’t think existed. We wanted to bring kind of that LA style and feel up to Calgary and give that opportunity to dancers.”

Nightingale adds that while there was a studio in Vancouver they could have gone to, it was important to the dancers that they stay in Calgary.

With how Calgary’s dance community has grown in the past twenty years, Nightingale says the company’s original mission is no longer as relevant as it once was. Now, En Corps is more concerned with retaining local talent.

“We first started because we thought we were bringing to Calgary something that didn’t exist…now, we don’t really see ourselves in that way anymore,” said Nightingale. “We just want to provide a dance experience to dancers in the city, so they don’t have to leave.”

It is not uncommon that dancers move to cities like Toronto or New York in order to pursue dance professionally. The reason for leaving is usually attributed to the lack of local opportunities for professional growth. To remedy this, En Corps offers dancers over the age of 18 classes and performance opportunities aimed at helping them grow and evolve as professional dancers.

For Nightingale, however, it is not enough that dancers gain solid technical training, but that they also feel a sense of belonging within the company, especially since founding members like herself are not always going to be around.

“I think I’m the last remaining founding member of En Corps, and this will be my last year because I’m going on to do different things,” said Nightingale. “We want to make people feel welcome in our group, so that they know that we want them on committees. We want them to get involved in what we’re doing and have a vested interest in En Corps to keep it going.”

And as the company prepares for its upcoming show The Escape, it is not hard to see what a significant impact the company and its commitment to fostering a friendly, professional environment has had on both new and veteran members.

En Corps Dance Collective presents The Escape, Jan 30-31st at the Wright Theatre, 8:00pm. Photo Credit: Red Dot Photography

En Corps Dance Collective presents The Escape, Jan 30-31st at the Wright Theatre, 8:00pm. Photo Credit: Red Dot Photography

The Escape tells the story of a distraught young girl who uses the power of her magic red ball to escape into a magical world of fantastic creatures. Unable to cope with reality, the young girl becomes dependent on this fantasy world to deal with her problems. Will she find the strength to return to the real world or will she become trapped in this unknown dimension?

Brittany Robertson and Jenna Powell started with the company’s drop-in classes five and nine years ago, respectively. Now, Robertson and Powell are not only dancing in The Escape, but they have also helped choreograph pieces for the show.

Powell, the artistic director of En Corps, says Nightingale’s departure signals a ‘passing on’ to the next generation who are becoming more active within the company.

“It’s slowly trickling down into my generation. We’re starting to direct more and to choreograph, ” Powell explained. “There’s also younger dancers who are part of our cast and part of [the University of Calgary’s] dance program, and they’ll eventually probably start to choreograph and become more involved.”

Odessa Johnston, a second year U of C dance student, says her first year with the company has been a valuable learning experience thanks to the diversity of dance experience she has been exposed to.

“This is quite a large range of age which is so great and so wonderful to experience because you get dancers that have been dancing for so long and have these great experiences, then dancers like me who have only been in university dancing for a few years now,” said Johnston.

Johnston, who hopes to pursue an MA in Dance, says she would like to continue dancing with the company, maybe even choreograph for them as well.

Even though there is always the challenge of fundraising and increasing costs associated with performance spaces and costumes, Nightingale believes that En Corps will be around so long as the company is willing to nurture the love of dance that its members share.

“[Twenty years] it’s a long time, especially since we’re a non-profit and we do everything ourselves,” Nightingale said. “I think it’s just because we have such a good base of dancers and we are really creating kind of, like I said, a family of dancers. We’re welcoming to people. We don’t – once people have children or they have families, we don’t say “oh, you can’t dance with us anymore.” …We’ve had pregnant ladies who’ve danced on stage…and they’re dancing because they have a passion for it. We’re open to involving people in different ways and we think there’s a lot of talent in the city that we want to bring to the company.”

Ultimately, Nightingale hopes that the company continues to thrive so that it can continue to keep dance and those who are passionate about it in Calgary.


En Corps Dance Collective’s The Escape runs Jan 30 – 31st at the Wright Theatre (Mount Royal University), 8:00pm.

Tickets can be purchased online here: https://tickets.mtroyal.ca/TheatreManager/1/tmindex.html

For more information about the company and The Escape, visit: http://www.encorpsdance.ca

This story has been edited to make the following correction: Melanie Nightingale (Malarchuk).

 

Undressing The Dance: Dancers’ Studio West’s Latest Initiative Promotes Open, Critical Dialogue

Kimberley Cooper has been invited to partake in a public discussion hosted by Dancers’ Studio West surrounding her biography and latest show Year of The Horse. Leading the discussion is Davida Monk, the artistic director of DSW, who asks Cooper insightful questions about the dancer’s influences and where she is headed as a choreographer. Encouraged to participate, guests in attendance ask questions of their own along the course of the discussion.

This was DSW’s 3rd Undressing The Dance Dialogue.

Beginning in September of last year, the Undressing The Dance Dialogues are the latest initiative by DSW and its Dance Action Group to promote open, critical dialogue about dance with the involvement of audience members.

“We’re really passionately interested and committed in critical dialogue as a way to improve our own creativity and works, to raise awareness amongst interested members of the public and to build community in an effective way,” Monk said about the Dance Dialogues.

The first Dance Dialogue focused on the Alberta Dance Festival where audience members, choreographers, along with production crew, discussed the works in the program. The second Dance Dialogue, which took place in October, focused on Lev’s House which ran at the Fluid Festival.

In regards to post-performance discussions, Monk says the Dance Dialogues offer audience members a different sort of critical dialogue, one that she feels is not possible without some distance.

“After some time, some reflection on the work and a longer period of time not in the theatre setting – a different kind of dialogue can be done,” Monk explained. “You have to ask yourself what stayed with you after the week. When you go home that night something will stay with you, but after a week what stayed with you?”

DSW’s next Dance Dialogue will host Ame Anderson of Public Recordings. One of the topics that will be discussed is Anderson’s what we are saying which opens January 21st as part of the High Performance Rodeo.

The free event will be held at Ironwood Stage & Grill, Nov 23 from 12-2pm. Space is limited. RSVP to communications@dswlive.ca


Decidedly Jazz Dancework’s Year of The Horse: The Completely Fictional Adventures of Josephine Baker ran Nov 7 – 15, 2014, at Theatre Junction Grand. Cooper, DJD’s artistic director, choreographed the piece which featured eight mechanical horses.

Public Recording’s what we are saying runs Jan 21 – 24 at the Royal Canadian Legion #1 as part of the High Performance Rodeo. For more information about the show and how to buy tickets, visit: https://www.hprodeo.ca/2015/what-we-are-saying

For more information about Dancers’ Studio West, visit: http://www.dswlive.ca/

*This interview with Davida Monk took place Nov 23, 2014 at the 3rd Undressing The Dance Dialogue.

Staging a Classic: U of C’s SCPA Brings West Side Story to Calgary

Something’s coming.

This week, the University of Calgary’s School of Creative and Performing Arts will be presenting the hit Broadway musical West Side Story.

For Colleen Whidden, the artistic director of U of C’s Music Theatre company, the decision that West Side Story should be the SCPA’s first show was an easy one to make.

“It’s West Side Story! Classic story…amazing music, every song…and from a dance point of view, it’s so dance intensive,” said Whidden. “There’s just so much area in the music for amazing creativity in the dance.”

“When we were bringing together the dance, drama, and music departments we said what would be a great first show for us to do together. It was sort of a no-brainer that [West Side Story should be it] because every department could really flourish, could really shine through this particular musical.”

Based on William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story stages the heated gang rivalry between the American Jets and the Puerto Rican Sharks in New York’s Upper West Side during the 1950s. Caught between the conflict are two young lovers whose relationship is threatened by the hatred and violence that surrounds them.

And despite the almost 60 year gap between this production and when the musical was first produced in 1957, Whidden believes that the story and its themes have not lost any of their relevance over the years.

“Even in 2015 now, we still can relate to it,” said Whidden. “Is it a story we don’t see anymore? No. We see it everyday. We probably just read about it in the paper…we see it in our own community, across our country and abroad. Maybe even more now we need to hear that story of resolution of coming together and bringing…divisive parties together.”

Tony (Ahad Mir) and Maria (Jocelyn Francescut) in West Side Story. Photo Credit: Citrus Photography.

Tony (Ahad Mir) and Maria (Jocelyn Francescut). Photo Credit: Citrus Photography.

This spirit of coming together is also reflected in the collaborative nature of the production which Whidden says has benefited the students, alumni, and community members involved.

“We’re coming together as the School of Creative and Performing Arts…with four of us from the drama, music, and dance departments each of us [can] bring our strengths.”

This has made West Side Story a great learning experience for both Ahad Mir and Jocelyn Francescut who play the lead characters Tony and Maria, respectively.

Mir, a fourth year U of C drama student, praises the collaboration, saying that he feels it has fostered plenty of opportunities to learn from his peers in the dance and music departments, and vice versa.

Likewise, Francescut, a music graduate from the University of Alberta’s Augustana Campus, says she has learned a lot through working with other disciplines in what she calls her first acting role ever.

“This has been a huge challenge for me since I haven’t done a lot of acting [but] I feel like I’ve learned a lot in the process,” said Francescut. “Sometimes it’s been hard, but it’s been so rewarding.”

Delivering such a well-rounded experience means that the level of what is expected of students in the future will only go up, Whidden says. She is confident, however, that students will meet, if not exceed, those expectations.


The University of Calgary’s School of Creative and Performing Arts’ production of West Side Story opens Thursday, January 8th at the University Theatre.

Performance Schedule:

Jan. 8 – 10, 13 – 15 at 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 11 at 2 p.m.
Jan. 14 at 12 p.m.

Tickets are $20 for Adults and $15 for Students/Seniors. Tickets can be purchased on-line (http://www.ucalgary.ca/tickets/) or at the door.

For more information about the show, visit: http://scpa.ucalgary.ca/events/west-side-story

Fully Functional Starts a Conversation About Disability, Sexuality, and Society

A co-production between Inside Out Theatre and MoMo Dance Theatre, Fully Functional is a new play that gives a voice and real presence to its artists of mixed abilities. Drawing inspiration from their own personal experiences, the artists/creators tell stories of love, sex, and romance through dance and movement.

Being late to a first date, sex poems and orgasmic shouting: it is fearless storytelling injected with humour.

But past the laughter and heartbreak of these stories, the artists ignite a conversation about how our society views persons with disabilities.

In a talk-back session after the performance, an audience member asked “what impact do you hope to have for people afraid to let others in? [I mean it’s] easy to say I want love, but to say I deserve love is a good place to start as well.”

Mark Ikeda, artistic director of MoMo Dance theatre, responded.

“We got together in a room…and talked how taboo the topic is about the intersection between disability and sexuality, and how not only does no one know how to talk about it but people are afraid to talk about it. We hope to start a conversation, start people thinking about…how certain preconceived notions or thoughts might be quite harmful”

Thomas Poulsen, one of the performing artists, followed Ikeda’s response with his own, saying “I think you indicated that fear is very much out there in the community – in the disability community.”

Fully Functional opened at the Joyce Dolittle Theatre inside The Pumphouse Theatre on December 3rd. Pictured (left to right): Stephen Henry, Gaelyn Thomson, and Kathy Austin. Photo Credit: Chantal Wall

Fully Functional opened at the Joyce Dolittle Theatre inside The Pumphouse Theatre on December 3rd, 2014. Pictured (left to right): Stephen Henry, Gaelyn Thomson, and Kathy Austin. Photo Credit: Chantal Wall

The fear Poulsen refers to is a fear of rejection that goes deeper than what one might assume. On a whole, persons with disabilities are marginalized and rejected by mainstream society.

Consider how we speak about disability.

The disabled – a homogenizing term that attempts to refer to all persons with disabilities. It is a term that ignores the fact that disabilities are various in their form and appearance. Above all, it is a damaging term that erases the individual and reduces them to a diagnosis.

Newspaper articles sometime describe wheelchair users as either “bound” or “confined” to their chair. Persons with disabilities are framed as ‘victims who suffer from’, rather than ‘persons who live with’ a disability.

And then, it is the distance “the able-bodied” maintain between themselves and persons with disabilities. This distance comes out of fear, anxiety, and discomfort. But yet, we feel comfortable enough to stare out of curiosity and to make assumptions about their lives (but never to assume that they might have their own desires for human intimacy).

So, how can one think that they deserve to be loved when they are confronted over and over again with this idea that living with a disability somehow makes you a lesser human?

On its surface, Fully Functional addresses the assumption that disability interrupts sexuality. What it also addresses is the lack of belonging persons with disabilities experience in society.

Fittingly, the play ends with a slow dance, but this time – unlike the first time – the artists invite members of the audience to come dance with them. The slow dance serves as an invitation to close the distance and to start connecting with one another.

After all, at the end of the day, we are all human beings who want to love and be loved.


Inside Out Theatre and MoMo Dance Theatre’s Fully Functional ran at the Joyce Dolittle Theatre inside The Pump House Theatre from Dec 3 – 6, 2014.

Fully Functional was created and performed by:

Kathy Austin
Emily Collins-Tucker
Stephen Henry
Thomas Poulsen
Gaelyn Thomson

Co-directors: Col Cseke and Mark Ikeda, artistic directors of Inside Out Theatre and MoMo Dance Theatre respectively.
Assistant Director: Jordan Dalley

Inside Out Theatre: http://insideouttheatre.com/
MoMo Dance Theatre: http://www.momodancetheatre.org/