Disabled Theater

Jerome Bel
Photo Michael Bause

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"French enfant terrible who uses non-dancers, and sometimes non-dances, to express his philosophical musings on the form."

Sanjoy Roy - The Guardian

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Choreographer Jérôme Bel’s Disabled Theater is a collaboration between Bel and the actors of Zurich’s Theater HORA, Switzerland’s best-known professional theatre company comprised of actors with learning and mental disabilities. Challenging the notion that is “other” to experimental theatre, with Disabled Theater, Bel opens up a space where disability is not expelled from visual and discursive practices, nor hidden behind the screen of political correctness. Instead, he places it squarely at the center of a discourse that has a bearing on both the aesthetic and political dimensions.

Choreographer Jérôme Bel has been interested since his early works in what stands beyond representation. In his choreographies, the rules of dance and theatre are treated like the syntax of a language that is analyzed and eventually put into play. Danced and spoken by professional as well as by amateur performers, his choreographies could also be seen as statements in favour of the democratisation of dance, which he pursues by way of a non-virtuous approach.

For his performance Disabled Theater (2012) he has worked with the learning disabled actors of the Theatre HORA, based in Zurich. A source of distress for a society defining itself as essentially normal, disability constitutes the limit against which the category of normality runs up. Its intellectual declension — i.e. mental disability — is generally thought of in terms of complete otherness to the condition of the intellectually keen and cultivated public of experimental theatre.

Bel chooses to bring this disability to the core of the attention of the audience, adopting it as a key to the reading of what enables us to think of a common dimension. What is at stake for Bel in working with the actors of Theatre Hora is the opening up of a space where disability is not expelled from visual and discursive practices, nor hidden behind the screen of political correctness, but is instead internal to a discourse that has a bearing on both the aesthetic and political dimensions.

With Disabled Theater, Bel sheds light on the dynamics of exclusion that leads to the marginalization of those who are considered unable to produce, exposing how, on the contrary, they are able to question the very mechanisms of representation, and to hint at existence as a nonpartitioned mode of presence.

- Chiara Vecchiarelli


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