CRIPSiE’s Careful forays into the world of care

What do you think of when you hear the word care?

Is it giving attention to someone or something?

Is it concern?

Is it protecting someone from a real or perceived threat?

Does the word have positive or negative associations with it?

Does your exploration of the word raise thoughts of the history of the word and what’s been done in its name?

CRIPSiE dancers. Photo credit: Mat Simpson

Photo credit: Mat Simpson

These are some of the questions Collaborative Radically Integrated Performers Society in Edmonton (CRIPSiE) wants to raise to audiences in their upcoming performance of Careful, playing in the Westbury Theatre of the ATB Financial Arts Barns November 18 and 19.

Careful is an evening of integrated dance and performance pieces that all centre around the idea of ‘care’. The show features six pieces by local artists as well as the world première of the piece Succumb, choreographed by renown artist Alice Sheppard.

Danielle Peers, an Artistic Associate with CRIPSiE and co-choreographer/performer of the piece Intimacies, presented as part of Careful, says the show came together as they realized CRIPSiE artists were all working on pieces that related in some way to the idea of care. “Care has a complicated history in terms of disability. A lot of really harsh and even evil things have been done under the banner of care for disabled people. Institutionalization is still sort of euphemised as ‘people in care’ so a lot of disability movements have rejected the idea of care in terms of a consumer model… A number of the pieces are starting to explore some of those themes in complex ways, so I think we just sort of held our breath and jumped in.”

Lindsay Eales, CRIPSiE’s Co-Artistic Director and choreographer of Les Étoiles and co-choreographer/performer of Intimacies, agrees with Danielle about the complexity of presenting work centring around care, “I think that the danger of care is an assumed lack of capacity or an assumed lesser way of being requires care and it erases the fact that we live in interdependent relationships, because care is often seen as unidirectional and that there’s one person caring for another who’s assumed to have less of something, therefore needing care. Because [CRIPSiE’s] work is with disabled artists and their artistic and political allies, it’s precarious territory to negotiate the ideas of care in front of an audience who might already make assumptions about how disability and care are related. We want to be able to undo some of those assumptions with our work and also honour the interdependent community and relationship-based experiences of care that are welcome and invited.”

Danielle adds, “There are two sides of the danger. I think being in a position to require support to survive ultimately requires dependence, but in a way that’s stigmatized and I think can put people in positions of incredible risk. If you can’t pee or eat without that kind of support then you’re in a position where, if that support is weaponized in some way, you’re at high risk. As we know, there are high rates of physical, sexual and emotional abuse of people in those situations. At the same time I think celebrating, recognizing and politicizing care can be dangerous for neo-liberal systems and can actually be a form of resistance. I think that’s part of the reason [disability is] stigmatized is that, in some ways, it threatens to expose the ways that we are all interdependent and that independence is a myth.”

CRIPSiE's dance ensemble. Photo credit: Tracy Kolenchuk

Photo credit: Tracy Kolenchuk

In Careful, CRIPSiE is presenting seven works that explore care from different angles. Matching CRIPSiE’s mandate of, ‘high quality, creative, anti-oppressive and inclusive art practices and performances,’ the choreographers of the pieces are diverse – including artists experiencing physical disabilities, Mad artists (artists who have had experiences with the mental health system), Queer artists, and artists of colour.

The pieces in Careful are:

  • Fix You – choreographed by Alison Neuman – a piece “inspired by the pressure to fit in and the power of individuality”
  • Les Étoiles: a resurrected motif – choreographed by Lindsay Eales – inspired by Le Petit Prince, an “exploration of connection, journeying, and home”.
  • Help! – choreographed by Kelsie Acton – a consideration of help in its myriad forms
  • bi/chotomy – choreographed by Rebecca John – “an exploration of racial androgyny”
  • Love in this Body – spoken word by Brandon Wint – “a poem that explores Black love, tenderness, and the relationship of each to the poet’s life and joy”
  • Intimacies – choreographed and performed by Lindsay Eales and Danielle Peers – “an exploration of the intimate, sexy, and care-sharing aspects of a queer crip mad relationship”
  • Succumb – choreographed by Alice Sheppard –  an exploration of when we accept and when we reject care.

Speaking about choreographing Les Étoiles, Lindsay says the relationships in Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince) served as a source of inspiration for her and the dancers in the piece. “That story is so beautiful and heartbreaking and a work that centres relationships and trying to be with someone, even though really hard times, even through death.”

Danielle adds, “Without presuming their needs… In some ways, the story line between the fox, the snake, the prince, and the rose are about meeting a creature at its own space and engaging with it on its own terms.”

Intimacies is Danielle and Lindsay’s autobiographical duet about their relationship, Danielle explains, “not only the trajectory of the romantic relationship that we have, but I think deeply intertwined and inseparable from that is a relationship of mutual care and negotiating consent. I think there is so much about relationships that can be normalizing, like expectations of what you’re going to do for each other and negotiating those things.”

Careful also features the world première of Succumb, choreographed by Alice Sheppard during a two-week intensive with CRIPSiE. Lindsay describes the questions Alice came in wanting to explore through the piece as, “She doesn’t shy away from dark and hard engagements, but she also shines light on some of the darkness… Who gives care? Who is  assumed to need care? In what relationships is care dangerous? How do we think of care in the home and in the community? Something that she was particularly incredible about was challenging our community to push the quality and physicality of the work and really teaching us more deeply about movement generated from impairment.”

On the opportunity to work with Alice Sheppard – a world-renown disabled dancer and choreographer – Danielle says, “I found it interesting that [Alice] has a very longstanding practice of choreographing from race and impairment and disability as opposed to necessarily having to be like, ‘now we’re going to show this thing on stage’, so that the political and social experience and culture of relating to disability and race influence how we create a piece and the movement patterns inside a piece.”

Both performances of Careful will be relaxed performances that make the experience of attending the show as accessible to as many people possible. Careful will be presented with the house lights up, ASL interpretation, captioning and whisper visual description available. There will be a variety of seating options available for audience members, and the performance will be live streamed into the lobby so that anyone who would like to move out into the lobby can still see the show. Further accessibility information about Careful is available on CRIPSiE’s website.

Careful is presented in the Westbury Theatre of the ATB Financial Arts Barns November 18 and 19. Admission to Careful is on a sliding scale between $5 and $25. Tickets can be purchased through EventBrite or with cash at the door.

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