I am thinking about the presence of bodies, of people, in relation to one another and in action through dance and theatre responding to one of our central questions: How do we make meaning from matter and how do material entanglements determine the way we inhabit the world? I do this with a group of people in the Aberystwyth area called Cyrff Ystwyth.

I am working on the materiality of dance – an entangling of bodies, space and time. I do this through the lens of disability and in particular learning disability – again, entanglements within various frames that compete and interconnect such as ethics, hierarchies of need, intentions and aesthetics.  We are always managing many competing elements of action, affect and concrete practicalities that are not separate experiences. They are one and many and always in play. The unexpected and intentional appearance of gesture suggests that gesture is thought made material. Agamben tells us that the mediality of gesture and of dance, offers being-in-language untied from any specific meaning, and is exactly what it is – what appears – the materiality of the gesture, the body in action. He says ‘it allows the emergence of the being-in-a-medium of human beings and thus it opens the ethical dimension for them’ (2000, p.57) Yet gesture is tied to language, when words as concepts lie out of reach. Key to this work is something about the ethical dimension of non-disabled people taking up the gestural utterances of disabled people as deeply serious choreographic articulations of thought.

Materiality for me then is the interplay of gesturing bodies, reading, enacting, decoding, relaying the thought of gesture in the process of becoming something like Braidotti’s assemblage which she theorizes as interconnection between ‘human and non human actors’ (2013, p.24). Critically the work of the dancers who participate in my research is of course, that they are all human and each self, each person connects in embodying, enacting and relaying the thought of each gesture. Braidotti says we are bonded and: ‘Transversal because we connect but also differ from each other. And yet we are structurally related to one another, to the human and non-human world that we live in’. (2019, p.38)

As Braidotti states, an assemblage is non hierarchical. But disability activists of all kinds know that hierarchies are ever present and defeat their material lived lives at every turn. And so, we should centre disability at the heart of every action, hear the ableist discursive siren call for what it is – a literal and metaphoric death trap, and centre the material facts of radical difference in every example of thought and action, from transport to how and what we teach, through to architecture, film making and fishing, from fracking to embroidery, and on and on.

The literal and metaphoric gesture (the gesture of turning up) of making something, of appearing before others in dance -theatre performance makes possible the appearance of the invisible – invisible thought, made material. These choreographies are intended as serious contributions to the forms of theatre and dance. Very briefly the dancers in Cyrff Ystwyth move to a moment of centrality before audiences, via the thinking making, writing and dissemination process of research.

Agamben, G. (2000) ‘Notes on Gesture’ Means Without End, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. pp.49 – 59.

Braidotti, R. (2019) Posthuman Knowledge, Cambridge: Polity Press

Braidotti, R. (2013) The Posthuman, Cambridge: Polity Press

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