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Dancing beyond disability, the artists seeking recognition

"It moves differently": Dance beyond disability   -  
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THOMAS COEX/AFP or licensors


Paraplegic at 13, Gladys Foggea says she has found her freedom of movement through dance. Like other professional dancers with disabilities, she is seeking to be recognized above all as an artist.

A handful of associations have been working in this direction for more than a decade in France, such as "La Possible Echappée", founded in 2007 in Paris by Kathy Mépuis, dancer, choreographer and teacher.

"The handicap is there, we can't deny it, but it is part of a difference that gives rise to another aesthetic. It is transcended by the dance", says to the AFP Mrs. Mépuis.

- Towards the Paralympics -

With an educational department (500 dance and live performance workshops per year) and an artistic creation department (with about fifteen professional dancers), the association has evolved well.

Fifteen of its artists, including Gladys, will launch from October 24 in a project of creation dedicated to the ceremony of the Paralympic Games of 2024, under the leadership of Robert Swinston, former dancer and assistant of the great American choreographer Merce Cunningham.

The company, which has eight creations to its credit, has also been working for months on two shows, "Esquisses" and "Passage", which will be presented in November in theaters in Ile-de-France.

"La Possible Echappée" is also working with the Univi group (medico-social) on a study to measure the impact of dance on health through workshops in Ehpad.

The word "possible" appeals to me because it allows us to go towards paths that we think are closed," says Ms. Mépuis. "Escape" evokes both a classical dance term (escaped) and escape as a breath of oxygen.

The artist prefers to avoid the terms "inclusive dance" or "adapted", just like Gladys Foggea. "It moves differently but we find this same freedom as an able-bodied person", explains the Guadeloupean dancer.

Today she lives her passion to the fullest, notably with "Passage", where she performs a duet with a dancer from the Paris Opera, Maxime Thomas.

"He did not know the disability, I had never worked with dancers of the Opera, and surprisingly, we have +matched", she smiles.

During rehearsals at the Maurice Ravel Center (12th arrondissement of Paris), the dancer let himself be carried by her and by the wheelchair that she spins around, or leans on it to do an arabesque.

Gladys also dances an amazing tango with Sabrina Roger, also in a wheelchair.

"You have to combine the movements of the wheelchair and the arms, that's what will make the beauty of the movements", says the artist, who had been hit by a car and thought her dream of dancing had been broken forever.

More than an object to get around, the wheelchair is an integral part of the creation.

"Often when you're paraplegic, you feel like you're cut in half. Dance really allowed me to reattach my legs with my trunk and reconcile myself with this body," she adds.

- "Playing with inertia" -

Sabrina Roger wants people to come "not to see people in chairs but to see a show." She remembers being hired once on video by someone who thought the chair was an artistic prop.

With a genetic disease that causes her to have coordination problems, the ballet-trained artist can stand for moments on her legs, which still opens up possibilities for alternating standing and sitting positions.

"The day I lost my balance (...), I started dancing with imbalance, playing with inertia," she recalls, hoping to collaborate with other choreographers.

Maxime Thomas, for his part, says that his creativity was "stimulated" by the mere fact of looking for different solutions. And to note that there are finally "many common points".

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