22nd September 2008

Beyond Words

posted in Autism |

Saturday evening we went to see dre.dance perform “beyond words”, a piece about autism. It was a powerful evening.

The dance told the story of an autistic boy growing up and the experience of autism. It took all of the everyday stims and movements and rhythms and made a beautiful, powerful piece. It was really cool. So much of the focus on autism in the media is so negative and to have somebody show that there is also beauty is really refreshing.

The directors didn’t really have a librato because they wanted you to intrepet the dance on your own terms instead of saying what it was, but I will give my interpretation of the story line:

It starts with the boy, center stage, in a hot spot. He is lining things up (in an abstract dance). The “parents” get upset, try to get him do different things (dance with them), he doesn’t. They argue and are upset. This scene had me doing the ugly cry and trying not to disturb those around me the first time I saw it at the Dance Festival, and I still cried this time…as a parent, it really got to a deep dark place. In the next scene the stage is filled with people and the boy is moved around, pushed, pulled and lifted by the large cast in an attempt to try and get him to dance with them, (which I interpreted as a flurry of interventions you seek after a diagnosis) and at the end, left to his own devices, he is still autistic, still lining things up.

There is a really neat scene in here where the boy and a man mirror each other’s movements and stims, and I interpreted that as the transition of the boy to the man (growing up).

The middle part of the ballet seems to be an exploration of the stims, in dance form. They included rocking, finger flicking, propriorecptive & other kinsetic stims (including Zane’s propensity for being upside down), and vocal and breathing stims. There might have been a story line there, but I was lost in the dance and just facinated seeing the everyday movements turned into dance form, so if there was a story line here, I missed it.

In the last section, there was a man that was clearly the boy grown up, and some of the early movement themes were repeated. Now the stage was filled with dancers, all moving together in whirl of complimentary actions (based on stims) for a while, and suddenly dancers start falling to the floor. The autist goes around trying to make them stand up, but more and more dancers fall to the floor and everything starts falling apart. He then starts moving between the dancers and dancing and clapping and everybody gets in sync again and is dancing beautifully. This last part was interpreted in dramatically different ways by other audience members, but I don’t agree with them. I think the last part was showing that the autist had everything arranged how he liked it and something came in and messed it up, and everything fell apart for a while, but since he is an adult, he has learned how to get everything back together on his own (the parents weren’t there). I found it really inspirational.

I don’t think I can tell you, in words, how incredible this dance is. I have always really enjoyed dance and going to ballets are one of my favorite things to do, but I know I have never been as affected by a dance before. Powerful experience. I hope they are able to get the funding to tour, but it will be coming to New York in the next months.

This entry was posted on Monday, September 22nd, 2008 at 9:51 AM and is filed under Autism. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

There are currently 2 responses to “Beyond Words”

  1. 1 On September 23rd, 2008, Antuan said:

    My name is Antuan and I’m one of the dre.dance company members and I just wanted to say thank you for posting this blog. Andrew sent it to all of us in the company and I’m so glad that he did. To read you words and how the piece affected you has opened yet another door of understanding for me as to the power and significance of the piece. Being in it I don’t have the luxury to see the finished product, but to be able to see through the eyes of another is so wonderful. Again, I would like to thank you for what you wrote and I am honored and humbled that I could be a part of this experience.

  2. 2 On October 1st, 2008, JoyMama said:

    Thank you for all the detail! My dad saw the show too and wrote a review that’s up on my blog “Elvis Sightings.” I wish I could have been there.

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