Doing the Laban Walk or Cripping the Light Fantastic / 2 March 2012
Laban told me when I applied to train on their Masters Degree in Choreography that my physical disability would not hamper training because "Contemporary choreographers don't use their bodies”.
During what became an examination of esoteric practices in conceptual performance making, almost all the practitioners brought in to 'show' us how they made work didn't make any Choreography anyway.
The same lecturer answered my fellow students' complaints of the shortage of dancers to practice their Choreography on by saying, “You can always slip into a studio and work it out on your own body.”
“Really?” I thought, “So this is how Choreographers don't use their own body?” I had already abandoned my many interviews with the person delegated Disability Officer at Laban. My lack of access complaints had produced almost nothing. The use of the few delegated Disabled toilets, as comfy changing rooms for Dance Students meant I had to travel several floors to find an empty cubicle and consequently my breaks in classes took longer than anybody else's.
Classes would always re-commence before my return implying that it was all my fault. The solution to this problem was offered as a plan for me to visit each class of young dancers in the building by turn and explain to each group of the able bodied people just what my Disabled toilet going process was and how I actually used the toilet and why I needed a Disabled one. As a sixty five year old disabled man even the thought of this was humiliation enough.
Visiting practitioners/lecturers were never informed that they had to accommodate at least one Disabled participant in their workshops. Told on their arrival in the dance studio of my disabled existence for the very first time and with a pre-prepared workshop they could only shout, ”Do as much as you can,” before commencing a routine I couldn't even consider commencing.
Once, whilst using my wheelchair, I was left locked for an hour in an empty theatre, into which I had been carried, whilst everyone else went out for lunch. The staff locked the door with me still inside. "Sorry about that".
Studying on what had been sold to me as a 'Taught Degree' and believing that the word 'taught' meant taught as in teach, I felt severely lacking in the receipt of teaching. As I approached the making of my final performance at Laban, which was to decide if I got the degree or not, I was feeling totally unprepared to complete the set task. I knew I hadn't been given what I needed.
Add to this the weekly commute from Cardiff to London while still holding down a full time teaching job and after over six months I had to admit defeat. I announced my intention to resign from the course... TO BE CONTINUED
Keywords: access issues,dance