How society conditions our perceptions of disability dance
University of Wales Institute Cardiff
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The "traditional individualistic medically-influenced definitions of disability" (Barnes, 1991, p23) have grown throughout society, enforcing the experiences of disabled people to be perceived as pitiful (Morris, 1991). Due to the socially influenced perception of disability, impairment has become the primary focus in disability dance (Barnes, 1991) resulting in a lack of interest and value with regards to its aesthetic appeal (Redfern, 1983). This demonstrates how "aesthetic perception might be thought to relate to normal perception" (Redfern, 1983, p52). In order to gain a clearer insight with regards to societies influence on the judgement of disability dance aesthetics, a qualitative study has been carried out. Two able-bodied Artistic Directors and two Performers with learning disabilities participated in semi-structured interviews. Relevant data was extracted in relation to their working progress, experiences, performance skills and views on dance aesthetics. It was discovered that societies sympathetic response hinders the aesthetic appreciation of disability dance and its opportunity to reach the mainstream culture. Dance aesthetics will always carry historical overtones (Redfern, 1983) such as the traditional perception of the idealistic dancing body (Brown, 1999), but there is always room and time to educate the audience about disability dance. If the aesthetic experience of disability dance is enlarged throughout mainstream and community culture, then less prominence will be given to beauty (Redfern, 1983) and the recognition of movement invention will be enhanced (Brown, 1999). We must enrich the understanding of aesthetic appreciation in order to inform the audiences experience and mode of understanding (Redfern, 1983)
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