Friday, September 26, 2008

beyond.words: Joy's Grandpa Reviews a Dance Premiere

Joy's grandpa, my father, sent me an e-mail the other day about a world premiere dance performance he had attended this weekend, together with Joy's grandma. We talked about it the following day, and the conversation & e-mail are blended together in the words below.

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On Saturday evening Joy's grandma and I went to Wichita State University for the world premiere of a new dance work titled "beyond.words." "Beyond.words" was created to raise autism awareness.

It was a deeply moving experience.

Seven performers from the New York dance company "dre.dance," joined by seventeen performers from the Wichita State University dance program, performed the work. The hour-long work portrays the life of one person on the autism spectrum, from youth to manhood to middle age. The dance movements are based upon repetitive motions, stimming activity, wild running, etc. typical of autistic persons.

We recognized a lot of what we have seen in Joy. Having chased Joy up and down the hallways at church, I almost laughed to see seven or eight dancers running full tilt across the stage and then dashing back. At times I thought I was feeling what it might be like to be inside the brain of someone with autism, there was so much going on.

Some of it was strange and frightening. Much of it was beautiful. It brought us to the edge of tears.

The creators of the new work are Andrew Palermo, a dance master, and Taye Diggs, a Broadway-movie-TV star. Palermo has been artist in residence at Wichita State University for the past year.

In a talk-back session after the peformance, the dancers spoke with enthusiasm about their visit to a local autism therapy facility where they had done part of the work and been received warmly. The work intends to "raise awareness that autism is not something to be 'cured' but to be accepted."

Palermo and Diggs plan to take "beyond.words" on a national and world tour next fall. Anyone with concerns or connections to persons on the autism spectrum would be enriched by seeing this show.

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UPDATE: I've found another blog-review of beyond.words that goes into more detail on the story-line of the work.

JoyMama again -- my father also pointed me in the direction of an article in the Wichita Eagle from the day before the performance, with more interview goodies from the show's creators.

He said that there has been some criticism of the work to the effect that it glorifies autism, making the strange and sometimes-disturbing movements of autism into beautiful dance and turning it into more gift than burden. To which I say... what a lovely corrective. We could use to see more of that facet of the complex truth that is autism. It helps to counterbalance the bruise-and-bite side of things!

I wish I could have been there, and I sure appreciate the review and the chance to share it. Thank you to my father for being so attuned to life with Joy, and for contributing to the blog as well as faithfully following it!

P.S. Several things I've read recently, of which the review reminds me:
Dancing in the Window by rhemashope at Autism in a Word
The Supercharged Brain by Kristina at Autism Vox
Where He Lives by Emily at A life less ordinary?

6 comments:

Mama Mara said...

I want to see that! What a beautiful idea.

Niksmom said...

Yes, I'd very much like to see that, too. What a wonderfully insightful review by your father, too. :-)

therextras said...

I'll be looking for that fall performance schedule.

Your Dad is wonderful, too. Not surprising.

Dance is so physical. Just like, heavy work ?

Mama Mara said...

Oh Miss JoyMama, someone just gave you a blog award!

rhemashope said...

This sounds beautiful. Thank you and Joy's Grandpa for sharing.

Lynda said...

I can almost picture the dancers in my head. Oh how I would like to see this performance. Any chance there will be some video of it? Perhaps YouTube??
Lynda