Winter 2023 In Dance

going to look like a dance therapy session or think the choreography will be very simplistic. One dancer does this move to the right and then the other dancer does the same thing to the left. Another misconception is that work like mine needs to be inspi- rational . And inspirational is one of those words that make me think, “Am I inspiring you bevvvvvvvsvcause I’m doing an amazing job or because I use a cane? If it’s because I have a cane then I don’t want to inspire you.” I want my work to be fulfilling artis- tically; to stand on its own; to make a statement and make the audience think. Also, the audience is not obli- gated to like my work just because I’m featuring performers with differ- ent abilities. NV: So you feel like you’re still break- ing boundaries? NA: Yes, I do. Tell me, how many disabled choreographers are choreo- graphing for mainstream companies? How many disabled dancers or actors are actually able to find meaningful work? How many dance companies are led by a disabled director? Around the world, barely any. And as we break boundaries, let’s remember it’s a team effort, it’s all of us. We all want to be recognized for what we do. But the problem starts earlier. When a young disabled person seeks training in the performing arts, it’s extremely limited. I have spoken with many uni- versity dance programs who have received applications from disabled candidates who got rejected because they don’t have the tools to train dancers with different abilities. So, AXIS has developed a program to help dance instructors be more inclusive. NV: That’s great! Can you tell me more about this program? NA: We have a teacher training pro- gram, which is always part of our summer intensive. We’ve gone to a number of universities and introduced

get out doesn’t come out the way you want or the way you imagine. There can be some frustration but it’s beautiful. NV: Do you have a particular process or methodology to create? NA: A lot of people ask me that but I want to surprise myself every single day. I try not to be an artist with a formula who can’t devi- ate from it and who does the same thing all the time. I’ve seen a choreographer’s first piece and thought, “Wow that was amazing.” Then I’ll go see their next show and it’s very similar to the previ-

our program. When we talk to pro- fessors we ask questions like, “What kind of language do you use? Is it inclusive language?” Somebody like me might not be able to take a bal- let class and that’s why I couldn’t get my degree in dance. However, at that point I had seven years of classical ballet training at a conservatory level. Nobody took that into account. How can you adapt a ballet class for somebody who comes in in a wheelchair? How can one teach and make people with a disability feel like they belong there? In the program, we talk a lot about language adapta- tion and translation of movement. If

I cannot do a rond de jambe with my leg, can I do it with my arms? Can I do it with my head or my torso? We talk about recognizing the purpose of an exercise and translating it into another body part. I want to bring this program to many other universities and then start reach- ing below, with high schools perhaps. So if a teacher has somebody with a disability in their classroom, whatever that is, they now know they can adapt instead of exclude. NV: So after living all over the world, performing for Candoco Dance Com- pany in the UK, founding your own

speaking, money comes from the gov- ernment, which is great but some issues come along with that. NV: What do you mean? NA: Well, because of my disability I was told to apply for Social Ser- vices and not to seek funds allocated for artistic endeavors. And I thought, “No, I don’t do social services. You can’t call me a therapist, that’s not what I do. I didn’t go to school for therapy. I don’t have their knowledge nor their training. I am an artist.” We always found a lot of walls and at that point in time we were not able to get past them. But I think now things are changing, at least that’s what I hear. That’s my story! NV: As a dance/art maker, what is your intention? What do you hope your work conveys? NA: A story. It might be my back- ground in theater but I love telling stories, especially through movement. Sometimes these stories are abstract or not necessarily linear, but that’s what I want to convey to the audience. Also, I always talk to the dancers about bringing their stories to the rehearsals.

I don’t have to know their personal stories, but our personal experiences can stir feelings that I find are an essential part of the creative process. NV: Being vulnerable and open. NA: Yes, I want them to put all of that into the movement I’ve created. And then adapt it and translate it into their bodies, manipulating my movement through their personal experiences. I always ask my dancers to journal so they have a record of what they went through as we develop new work. My goal is to work together.

ous one. Then I’ll go to a third show where everything’s the same: the cos- tume, the type of movement, the light- ing, etc. It works for some people and that’s great for them. I admire that. However, I try to discover new things every time because I work with differ- ent people, I have new ideas, I’ve hired different dancers, and I want to chal- lenge myself to create different types of movement as well. NV: What do you look for in a dancer? NA: Oh, great question. Very hard question. I look for dancers that are willing to throw themselves into the unknown. I look for passion and, you know, technique is always nice to have but it’s not the only thing. I would go for someone with great presence even if they might not have the best tech- nique. Someone who can captivate me and the audience; when they are on stage you can’t help but to look at them. Yes, those are the three things I mostly look for in a dancer. NV: What are some of the misconcep- tions people have about integrating dance and disability? NA: Sometimes, people think it’s

NV: Collaboration. NA: I love collaboration. I love

talking to different people and taking them on a journey and for them to do the same for me. Going down this road together and discovering new things that maybe need to surface. I love the creative process. NV: Right. Sometimes it’s even more rewarding than the end product. As a dancer, that’s when I got to learn the most about my art. NA: I agree, and sometimes it’s frus- trating, too. What you’re trying to


in dance WINTER 2023 32

WINTER 2023 in dance 33

In Dance | May 2014 |

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