WIDANCE: Duncan Armstrong, Judith Jones and Sumara Fraser
WIDance looks towards 2019
14 December 2018
By Kezia Bennett
Inclusive circus, and performances for Matariki and the International Day of Persons with Disabilities are just three of the projects on the Wellington Integrated Dance 2019 calendar.
WIDance has also been invited to develop an installation at the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts, to run alongside an award exhibition in early 2020, and will be working on this project in 2019.
WIDance co-ordinator and tutor Sumara Fraser says the installation will be inspired by both the artwork of the 2020 Wallis Art Award winners and the architecture and history of the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts' building.
"Our aim will be to bring further dimensions to an already wonderful event and venue," she says. “And of course, somewhere in here we will also be working towards our own tenth anniversary performance in July 2020. It’s a very exciting year-and-a-half ahead for us.”
WIDance runs weekly dance classes at Te Whaea: National Dance and Drama Centre in Newtown over four six-week terms. The dancers include a mix of people with and without disabilities, and the classes teach skills in contemporary dance, improvisation and choreography.
Sumara also hopes to offer two terms of inclusive circus in conjunction with The Circus Hub, which is next door to Te Whaea. The aim is to work towards a combined performance.
"Having a showing of work at the end is a great way to encourage progress, and gives a sense of purpose and direction for all the skills that will be taught."
Collaborating with Touch Compass
Sumara will also continue collaborating with WIDance’s umbrella company, Auckland-based Touch Compass. This includes plans for an event to celebrate Matariki in July, as well as again performing On Display on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on 3 December, as WIDance did in Midland Park this year.
Judith Jones, a member of WIDance, participated in On Display this year.
"I had thought hard about how I would centre myself to be On Display in a public space and yet not connecting with people in that space. Although I had imagined it would anchor me, I hadn’t realised how much the physical aspect would help,” she recalls. “The ground under my bare feet, the sound of the water in the fountain, the light breeze rustling the leaves on the horizon I set myself.
“I felt that wonderful sense of together:alone, knowing other white-clad statues were nearby. I had also imagined how I would hold my space if people came into it but no one did. Nearby, yes, with clicking cameras, yes, even walking by without seeming to notice me at all. The hour whizzed by: it was such an intense and interesting experience."
On Display is described by founder Heidi Latsky as “a deconstructed art exhibit/fashion show and commentary on the body as spectacle and society's obsession with body image. It turns a cast of diverse and extreme bodies into a sculpture court where the performers are the sculptures.”
This year, WIDance has mainly been focused on laying the groundwork for future performances, Sumara says. “I had decided early on to spend this year exploring and building strong choreographic ideas that we can put to use over the next couple of years. I also thought it would be interesting to play with ideas we haven’t explored as yet such as rhythms and percussion, and social dance, both of which were challenging but a lot of fun.”
Filling a gap in Wellington
WIDance has been running since 2010, funded by the Wellington City Council, community donations and a small fee from the dancers. It was established after a series of workshops between 2007 and 2009, run by Touch Compass Artistic Director Catherine Chappell.
“We saw a gap for integrated dance in Wellington and so after some planning, we applied for funding and launched our first term of classes in 2010,” Sumara says.
“At Wellington Integrated Dance, we want non-disabled people to challenge their perception of what integrated dance is. We want to show the community that our dancing is not better or worse than other dance styles. It’s different and it works in different ways.”
Kezia Bennett is a founding member of WIDance. She is also a volunteer writer for Arts Access Aotearoa.