Integrance: a crossroad on my dance path

As far as I can remember, I always loved dancing. I danced on my bed, on my office chair when I was studying, in family gathering. Because I Have Cerebral Palsy, I went to a rehabilitation center from age 2 to 14. The last four years, each summer. There I created a little dancing show with my girl friends. Later on my last year of high school I participated in a dance performance created for a high school students festival. In fact, it was my first time being on a stage and I remember like it was yesterday. I was excited and terrified at the same time: the audience would look at me, maybe judge me… but wasn’t it what I felt from most of the people, for a long time now? So, I did it anyway, and it went well.

After this time, I lost touch with dance for 6 years. The only relationship I kept with it was by going to bars and night clubs with friends in college. I was focused on being a good student. In fact, trying to be the best student I could.  At the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011, I had a really bad time in my life and it put things into perspective. I was 23, and I was already tired of everything… so I needed something to change…

So I took a break from college and I decided to go to California, to spend some time with a friend and family in Los Angeles. Also I was there to participate in AXIS dance company summer intensive in Oakland. This is when and where my life changed for GOOD! Over there, I found myself again and I felt happy and free. This is where I met  fabulous Dance Renegades (Rodney, Tanja, Toby, Nicole to name a few…)  and my Arts angel, Alice Sheppard. Without her guidance and support I would not be dancing today. She is my Homer Avila… (she knows what I am referring to).

Since then, I did everything I could to learn about integrated dance and to keep on dancing. I took classes in contemporary dance and classes at the University of Poitiers for a year. I took a class with the one and only inclusive dance company in France, La Compagnie Tatoo. After I finished college in October 2012,
I came back to my hometown and I got a job, however, not as a dancer. I also started to participate in a weekly choreographic research laboratory for amateurs led my Gael Domenger in Biarritz. There I met Deva Macazaga, a dancer, teacher and choreographer in CO&CIEDANSE. As I was frustrated after the class I just had, she invited me to take her contemporary dance class. Since then I have been training in contemporary dance and contact improvisation with her. She helped me develop my movement and artistic skills. I am happy our paths crossed that day. This past year, I’ve been reading a lot of interesting things about integrated dance and watch a lot of videos from different companies. I was eager to develop my skills as a wheelchair dancer. Then I met dancers from Stopgap and artistic director, Lucy Bennett, in September 2013 at their shows in Versailles, France. She kept me posted on training possibilities with the company and I had the chance to attend Stopgap’s Spring Lab in April 2014.

   How did I get involved in the EU’s dance project Integrance?

I met Laura Patay, one of the Integrance dancers, when I went to Stopgap’s SpringLab last April. We clicked immediately as she was also from France and really friendly. We talked about Integrance and she told me more about this project. Integrance is a project funded by EU Culture Program, which brings together Sg2, Indepen-dance 4 (Scotland), Platform-K (Belgium) and Micadanses (France). The aim is for each company to share its practice and to work towards a collaborative production over an 18-month period. In fact, I knew about Integrance, but in June 2013, I couldn’t audition to be one of the dancers from France because I was working full time.

During the SpringLab, Laura told me that she wanted to work in an integrated dance company. Finding her really talented, I convinced her to audition for Candoco, which was looking for a new disabled dancer at the time. She did, and last June, she got the job. She had to leave the Integrance project and she recommended me to Pascal from Micadanses. At the time, the project’s previous choreographer had to leave. So, it was kind of the perfect time for me to get involved in the project. Everything was starting from scratch. Indepen-dance was hosting the third meeting last week of August in conjunction with the Commonwealth Games 2014, and the first international inclusive dance festival in Scotland named Gathered together.

When I got offered this job, as a dancer, I was grateful but I had to think about it. I was just unemployed after a 17 month fixed-term contract and I was thinking about moving back to Bordeaux to seek a new job as a work psychological. Being a dancer, professionally, and part time, was not really in my plan. But, honestly, it has been something I have been thinking of for a few months now. Seeing people from different backgrounds succeeding in this field started to make me believe that it was maybe possible for me too… So maybe it was time to take a chance on dance…

How was my week rehearsing with Integrance in Glasgow?

The first day has been fun and terrifying at the same time. Everyone
made me feel at ease and I instantly liked our choreographer George Adams. We had some great warm up on the floor and we learned two small routines which we would practice for the rest of the week. To finish the day, he made us standing still, one by one, in front of the others, doing “nothing”. After watching all my fellow dancers, I stood there, eyes closed, trying not to cry, feeling naked, vulnerable, finding hard to be watched… but also overwhelmed by this chance to be here at this moment, surrounded by dancers, doing what I love… Was this happening? For real?

We worked really hard for 4 days to start creating the piece, as we only had two weeks rehearsals left with all the dancers together. The rehearsals have been really challenging which is good but also funny and interesting: lot of great exercises to explore and interesting ideas on solo’s, duets. I’ve been working a lot with Tomos, one of Sg2 dancers, which has been fantastic because he’s a strong dancer, and I like strong movements. So, I really liked
working on our duet. On the third day, we worked on contact improvisation in duets and it was a good experience as well. I had fun with Aurélie as my dance partner and it really confirmed my taste for improvisation. All dancers have shown great things and it was very inspiring. On the last day rehearsal, we did warm-up yoga, which was great, and we worked on improvisation in trios. Then we continued working on the piece and we worked on life stories improvisation exercises. Working with George is interesting. I find him professionally stimulating and really nice as a person: a good mix to createbeautiful things.

On the fifth and last day, we all participated in a workshop. Personally, I had fun experiencing the work of Chisato Minamimura. She is an amazing dancer and choreographer. In the afternoon, we had a guided tour of Glasgow’s city center. Thank you to Mary and her husband for an interesting and funny tour! In the evening, we enjoyed Gathered Together Ceilidh. What a great way to end this amazing week: an evening full on dance and so much fun all together. I will always remember this dance shared with the “Swedish Aktiva Tjejer ladies”, Joel and Caroline… a lot of rolling, turning, and tangling wheelchairs… haha.

If « Dance Renegades are those dancers with different physicality’s, different perspectives and alternative expressions, the ones that have wrestled with conventional dance styles and therefore have fueled the inclusive dance world. Then I already met a lot of them before and during this week in Glasgow. I learnt from them in so many ways and I am thankful for that. During that week in Glasgow, I learnt about how dance, as a professional level is and could be, about others and about myself.

 I look forward to continuing to work with George and all the dancers in Belgium in February. I am so glad to be a part of this project because I am sure that we will, at our level, fill the inclusive dance world. I can’t wait to see where this project will lead us and which road I’ll take at the crossroad…

To be continued…
Maylis Arrabit

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