Saturday, March 20, 2010
Private dancers, snails and ketchup as Olympic Games take artistic turn
Choreographer Janice Parker, who specialises in working with disabled dancers, and Ramesh Meyyappan, a Singaporean performer based in Glasgow, won two of the first ten commissions for the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad.
The Unlimited project, overseen by London 2012 in partnership with the Scottish Arts Council, aims to celebrate disability, arts, culture and sport in a bid to boost "disability arts" across the UK.
The first of three rounds of funding handed out yesterday was worth a total of £400,000.
Ms Parker, a "dance artist", has worked in the past with performers with learning disabilities, from people in wheelchairs to those with Down's syndrome.
Her show Private Dancer will bring professional and emerging disabled dancers together in a life-size luminous "house". Solo dancers will perform in individual rooms for audience members who walk through and around the structure and experience the performances in a one-to-one setting.
Mr Meyyappan, an award-winning performer who is deaf, is currently learning to use stilts for his show, Snails and Ketchup, expected to premiere later this year.
The work is inspired by The Baron in the Trees, a modern classic by the Italian writer Italo Calvino, in which a 12-year-old boy takes flight from an abusive father for life in an oak tree. The tipping point is when his father tries to force him to eat snails.
In the solo performance, Mr Meyyappan plays four characters in a dark, surreally comic tale meant to explore dysfunctional family relationships. He tells the story through movement and mime, as well as aerial and stilt work.
His producer, Chloë Dear, said: "He's a physical performer and wants to expand his physicality by moving up vertically. He has a strong following within the deaf community, he is known beyond that, but this piece will take what he does to a wider audience in Scotland and elsewhere."
The UK Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell, said yesterday that while the London 2012 Paralympic Games will break down barriers for disabled people, the Unlimited projects will "showcase the true depth of artistic talent we have amongst disabled people in the UK."
Grants were also awarded to groups from London, Northern Ireland and Wales. They include the Candoco Dance Company, whose disabled performers featured in the Olympic hand-over ceremonies in Beijing, for two dance pieces to be performed at a range of festivals leading up to 2012.
Maggie Maxwell, head of equalities at the Scottish Arts Council, said: "We congratulate both Janice and Ramesh for this recognition of the high calibre of their work and wish them every success with their productions and the next stages of their professional careers."
WINNING artworks and performances to break barriers for disabled people that shared more than £400,000 in funding from the Cultural Olympiad include:
• London – The Garden by the Graeae Theatre Company
Inspired by Blake's Jerusalem, disabled sway pole and street art performers will explore "England's green and pleasant land".
• Northern Ireland – The Screaming Silence of the Wind
Artist Maurice Orr will create installations inspired by the raw, barren landscapes of his native Northern Ireland.
• North West – The Ugly Spirit by Fittings Multimedia Arts
This performance work using the lives of conjoined Siamese twins Chang and Eng Bunker will explore issues of identity.
• Yorkshire – Bipolar Ringmaster (without a Circus) by Stumble danceCircus
Eric MacLennan will demonstrate the wild extremes of bipolar disorder.