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Choreography leads people from society’s periphery onto the stage

7 Nov 2017

‘Guest’ dancers with Down syndrome paired with professionals in a special performance for Durban’s annual dance festival.

Dutch choreographer Adriaan Luteijn is celebrated for his inclusive modern dance pieces.

In them, he blends professional dancers with his “guests”, individuals who make us feel uncomfortable – who are kept invisible or forced to the periphery of society.

He has had dancers in their teens partner with women over 75; people with autism choreograph their own work; and created a dance between a ballerina and four young men with severe muscular disease.

He recently worked with four professional dancers from the Flatfoot Dance Company and four young “guests”, in this instance three men and one woman, all with Down syndrome.
The work, Cardiac Output, was staged as part of Durban’s annual dance festival JOMBA! It was the closing act of 2017.

Luteijn works for Introdans, a renowned Netherlands-based modern ballet company and is artistic manager of the Introdans Interactive programme. Its maxim – “Everyone can dance!”

“We wanted to perform as Introdans and we also wanted to do something extra this time. The main ingredient is the professional dancer. The guests are people you wouldn’t necessarily imagine on stage but have aspirations of their own and often some experience.”

Karl Hebbelmann, Kevin Govender, Charles Phillips and Michaela Munro made it through the audition process and Luteijn was pleasantly surprised by the outcome.

Between them, he said he has someone who has been dancing her whole life, a Michael Jackson aficionado and a ballroom dancer. “All four were remarkably good, with a great relationship towards their dance partners and to dance, which is what I look for.”

It’s not only a unique experience for the guests, but also a challenge for the professional dancers.

“They needed to maintain the attitude of professional dancers, and I insisted on a strict division between caretaking and art,” said Luteijn. “That [the guests] all had Downs Syndrome was not at the core of the work. The overarching impetus was to create beauty and magic on stage.”

“If the dancers tried to become caretakers, the relationship would be skewed. They had to relate [to the guest dancers] on an equal level. The point of inclusion was to be equal artistically in every way.

“The idea of inclusion is very current in the Netherlands. We look to emancipate people and dance is, I think, the best medium. It is important to open [the] eyes of the audience.”
Story adapted from Timeslive



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