Before the performance, the stage is set: a giant 6-foot tall ramp specifically designed for the group, with two wheelchairs stacked atop each other like orbs. The background is dark, with dozens of stars and comets. It feels like the audience is staring straight at the Milky Way. The performance begins and the audience is confused. The performance is about two dancers who use wheelchairs- we had expected them to be in the wheelchairs the whole time, and move around with them. Instead, the dancers start without the chairs. They move around on the ramp, rolling, tumbling, sometimes perching on their knees or feet lightly. Their arm movements are the most expressive- wide, lyrical, sad and otherworldly.
The background gives the feeling that the story takes place somewhere between, or in, the star-filled sky and ebbing waves.
There is a narrative to go along with the performance which describes what part of the story is happening during each act. The story itself was inspired by Rodin’s sculpted figures Andromeda and Venus, who were from different mythological worlds.
Because the dancing and music are very abstract, the plot of the performance would not have made sense without reading the narrative. It is easier to piece together which scenes were representing which parts of the story, such as when Andromeda is pleading with Venus, and when they are separated by a spirit guide but come back together and only have each other.
The use of wheelchairs is less than expected. The dancers move freely without their chairs and move easily with them. They balance atop each other while buckled, but not stuck, to the chairs. The arm movements vary throughout, and are sometimes mimicked by each other. They mirror the movements to show communication, understanding, acceptance, and differ the movements to show conflict, tension, and fear.
A theme that is evident is constant motion. In the otherworldly setting, Andromeda and Venus are always reaching for or away from each other. They are never still, waiting for a result. The wheelchairs add to this theme, as the wheels are moved fluidly to match the movements. A sense that can be felt throughout the performance is that the dancers are not stuck in any way. Physically, because they can move on, around, behind, or under the ramp, and emotionally, because they are accepting one another even though the spirit guides threaten to tear them away from each other. There is immense strength shown throughout, especially at one point when one of the dancers stands, briefly, and then falls back down to her knees, her facial expression strong and victorious.
The overall impression of the show is that while we tend to think that ‘disabled’ means that you are completely unable to use your body as most people do and that you are bound to a wheelchair, that is not always the case. As is seen in this performance, people who use wheelchairs are just as capable of creating strong, emotional, lyrical performances producing deep connections to the audience.