A Dance Company That Blends Art and Abilities
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because dance offers the world’s best interpretations.
By Tracy Moran
If “music and rhythm find their way into the secret places of the soul,” as Plato said, then it stands to reason that arms and legs are optional. Passion, strength and weakness, after all, can be expressed by everyone, whether they have two left feet … or none at all.
Cue the U.K.’s Stopgap Dance Company, a charity committed to integrating able-bodied, disabled and learning impaired dancers into powerful productions that push audiences to see the world differently. Its recent production, Artificial Things, has been touring Britain throughout the past year, offering a look at a group of characters who butt heads and seek to escape through boisterous rock music. They sort out disagreements via sensual and at times almost violent moves in a bid to question viewers’ ideas about coexistence.
Life and art should be celebrated in all its glorious forms.
Divided into three scenes, Artificial Things shows the characters getting to know and interacting with one another through dance, including a notably graceful turn by wheelchair-bound Laura Jones, as well as the group’s playground-style games.
But the mood turns dark, highlighting differences between the five characters — male, female, abled and disabled. As tension erupts, so does the music, with 2012 London Paralympic Games opening performer Dave Toole taking to the stage on his hands as the performers explore an uncomfortable look at humans descending into their worst, careless and violent selves. Chris Pavia, a learning impaired dancer, faces his own image onstage and is so upset by what he sees that he spirals into self-destruction. The third act has the characters trying to resolve their differences, with Toole and Jones providing an emotionally stunning sequence in which their moves — performed on the snowflake-strewn stage — appear fluidly interdependent.
Having started as a community dance project in 1997, Stopgap has grown into a beloved, albeit small gem in Britain’s dance industry. It recently suspended its critically acclaimed tour of Artificial Things to return to the drawing board and begin preparations for a new production late this year. While the company designs and perfects the new show, its emerging artists company, Sg2, helmed by producer Lou Rogers and in collaboration with choreographer Tim Casson, will go on tour in mid-2016.
This is art in the abstract, which can leave viewers breathless — and scratching their heads. But the overall takeaway is clear: Life and art should be celebrated in all its glorious forms.