This past weekend, our family was invited to the Harbourfront Centre Theatre to attend the CoMotion Festival organized by Alex Bulmer, who is a disabled Canadian playwright and theatre artist. This festival features Deaf and disabled artists in a variety of events including visual and digital art, music, performances, and panel discussions. So what’s alll this CoMotion all about? ;)
Here are some events that I’d like to highlight, and perhaps you may want to check it out for yourself… there’s still time for you to go!
When you get to the Harbourfront Centre, check out the different displays from My Words, which is a building-wide exhibition where written words and sentences appear in expected and unexpected places sharing feelings of personal reflections of what it feels like to be disabled and marginalized. This particular display throughout the Harbourfront space, not only offers guests a new way to experience art but also talk about the diversity in the disabled community.
A Crash Course in Cloudspotting is an intimate audio experience exploring the act of lying down through stories from people living with invisible disabilities and chronic illnesses, and taking a moment to experience a different view and perspective. Find a relaxing spot and bring your body to the ground to experience this unique approach horizonally.
CoMotion also offers a wide variety of interactive workshops such as Every Body Can Dance. Kathleen Rea is on the autism spectrum, and has a passion in educating others about neurodiversity. She leads this workshop welcoming people in assistive devices and uses these accommodations as an extension of their bodies, while helping participants to explore movement in relationship with others through dance.
Have you ever thought about how art can explore the barriers society has placed on disabled artists? How can art be a medium to celebrate our differences and unique identities? What does art, look, sound and feel like for you?
Our family attended the Hoops: A Circus Extravaganza! which was a family-friendly event. We chose to go to this event as this was advertised as a relaxed performance where the show has been adapted to suit people who may not be able to follow the 'typical' theatre rules. I've attended relaxed performances in the past, and what I love about them is that it allows everyone to be able to express however they want, where all sounds from the audience are welcomed and expected. Attending this was important for Bella as she hasn’t been out in the community for 2 years, and I wasn’t sure what to expect being out in public.
As we entered the main level of the theatre, we were welcomed to what I like to call ‘the VIP row’ aka accessible seating. I parked Bella’s wheelchair in the middle so she would have a clear view of the performance, and Petie took a seat beside her taking in the whole theatre ambiance filled with many rows and stacked balconies of suede seats. As the lights slightly dimmed, all the children in the theatre started to squeal, and Bella yelled and shaked her beads in the air as this was her way of showing interest in what was to come.
The Radio Circus: Red Dress Performance was the first act. The aerialist, Erin Ball was introduced to the audience as she gracefully walked onto the stage in a red flowing outfit. What I immediately noticed was the ASL interpreter who narrated every movement and visual that was happening on the stage. This approach to the performance not only made it accessible for people who are deaf and hard of hearing, but it also facilitated the communication between the audience and the performers throughout the show. As the music began, the performer moved gracefully over, under, and through the suspended hoop defying gravity and exploring movement that was in sync with the singer who was playing the guitar. Petie was the first to notice that the lyrics to the song were describing all the movements that the arialist was doing from the beginning to the end.
The next act was called Pirate Tales. This performance was Petie and Bella’s favourite as this aerial performance on the hoop told a story about the friendship between a pirate and a mermaid. As the mermaid entered the stage swimming on a long blue strip of fabric, flapping her shiny tail to wave to the audience, the ASL interpreter and the narrator who provided an open audio description taught us how to sign the words: mermaid, pirate, and ocean. During this performance I turned and peered across the theatre to see if the other people were as engaged as my family. It was wonderful to see how this circus show recognized that our differences can bring us closer together through movement and art.
At the end of the performance, the audience was welcomed to come onto the stage for an informal touch tour. Petie was a bit shy but with Bella’s yells echoing across the theatre, it was a good opportunity for her to engage with the performers and the props. With Bella’s vision impairment and the need to touch and see things up close, the artists invited us up with open arms. Bella enjoyed touching the sequins of the mermaid’s tail, as Petie was hanging on the arial hoop (I whispered to him sternly to not to break anything, lol).
Thank you to the staff at the Harbourfront Centre for inviting our family to attend CoMotion. It was great to see how the entire festival has been meticulously and intentionally planned with a focus on physical and emotional accessibility for all the visitors. We look forward to another engaging event in the near future!