The transforming power of arts through the eyes of our collaborators
Photo by Ruth Mills
"Art brings equality."
Q&A with Marc Brew
“When people engage with art, there is no stature, there’s no difference, we are all experiencing things together.”
How does your audience react to your performances? Do you have a wish to changing their perception about disability and, ultimately, to cause a change of attitude? Is this even possible?
We think that the attitude change comes from people seeing the work, and the work is a high quality work by disabled artists, so they stop seeing the disability and start seeing the art for what it is and what it can offer. I think that’s where the attitude change is, so people stop seeing what’s wrong, what’s different, but actually appreciate the art form for what it is, that’s definitely what I try to get across and in regards to my work and my audience, I mean it really depends on the kind of work that I am showing, but I really feel like there’s a real interest and a real following which is really exciting. My solo work is quite moving, powerful, an emotional journey, and at the end is one of those pieces that they get up and clap, and you know it shows that people are really moved by and it takes some while to process it. So I want my audience to be challenged and be moved and have an experience.
As we near the Paralympics, people talk a lot about ‘overcoming’. Dance curator Natalia Mallo once said about you: “It’s not about overcoming; he’s an artist, he’s not overcoming himself, he’s being an artist, what he already was before being on a wheelchair and still is”. What do you think about these two perspectives?
If I am honest, to me, in regards to being a dancer and an artist, the passion is something I pursue and I have my career initially as a non-disabled artist and worked professionally as a classic ballet dancer, so I find a way of continuing that because there’s still that passion inside me and I still want to be able to express myself through movement and dance and art. So, I suppose I definitely agree with Natalia and I think that’s very kind of her for saying that. But you know, the artist work is the way they have to express themselves, I just had to find other ways of doing that after acquiring a disability, but also now looking at it in retrospect my disability has also really informed my art form. It’s not like I go on and do work based on the disability scene, but my movement, my language, my communication is informed by my disability. So I think I agree with both those arguments, the disability and the art form now work together.
How do you see the disability issue both in Brazil and in the UK? What do you think they could learn from each other and how was your experience in accessibility whilst you were there?
think you know the answer too. One thing that I am really excited about is the creativity and the variety of the different artists that are in Brazil. I truly feel that Brazil is the incubator for really interesting creativity. It’s been just lovely to work with [the dancer] Gisele Calazans and [the dance curator and director] Natália Mallo. The result was the great work we created, when we premiere it we’ve got a standing ovation and l think that says a lot. But in the context of accessibility I’d have to say that’s one of the hardest things and I think that’s what stops people from accessing the art and access these opportunities, because the environment is not accessible, places are not being open for inclusion. That’s been really hard, I had to bring in an assistant to help us primarily just with access, like we’d have to get around with all the steps to go down and to go up and so I had to get him to help me get around with that because there’s no way so that I do it on my own. The difference with that is that there’s the strongest disability law and the disability rights movement in the UK, so people have to make reasonable adjustment to make it more accessible.
How did your work benefit from the exchange with Brazil?
To me it wasn’t just as a performer, it has really helped me to grow. Often these days I am in a position where I am creating, directing and leading where it’s just so lovely to be a dancer and contributing to a creative process and not leading the project, which is great and I think it’s all about working together. I learned a lot of things about letting go and I am usually so strict with schedule and time, and Brazilians have their own time, but that doesn’t mean they are not passionate for what they do.
And what do you think it’s been your contributions to the Brazilian dancing sector?
Maybe my humor, although I think my humor might have been lost in translation. No, I am just kidding, I don’t know… I hope it has been showing possibilities of what can be achieved by creating opportunities for other people to engage, with or without disabilities. Hopefully that.
How was this experience with the British Council transforming to you?
I think the main thing is it’s been about making that connection between the UK and Brazil and having this door for possible cooperation that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I’ve been able to show the work in Brazil as well and now collaborating with the creative work there, that wouldn’t have been possible without the British Council’s action in Brazil.
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