Friday, July 5

as the confetti settles

It's been a week since amputee circus camp came to an end.

Credit: Michael East
After five full days of playing and training, it all climaxed in a bang of confetti for the finale of our performance at the Ontario Contemporary Circus Showcase in Toronto.

The piece featured each camputee on her chosen apparatus: fabric, hoop, and Erin's celebrated hanging wheelchair. The one brave camper dude brought down the house with his hula hoop, tossing it into the air and catching it with his nub arm.

We certainly accomplished a lot in one week. We laughed-e.g. "Does anyone remember where I put my legs?"-We cried, in frustration and recognition, and we prevailed with no camper left on the ground. But though we were drawn together-literally grouped-over the commonality of limb difference, I was struck by our diversity. Even our physicality spanned a spectrum, and no two of us had lived the same experience in our bodies. I didn't find, as I expected, that working with other aerialists with missing limbs was particularly helpful in skill development because we were each so differently abled.

Instead, we had so much to learn and consider from one another because of our differences. I learned from Talli how one moves through the world with no arms; from Bonnie the importance of wheelchair accessibility and how often it is lacking; and from several that not all prosthetic legs are created equal. These are things that I never consider, that no one ever considers, until one is confronted by it.

On Saturday, our courageous teacher and camp co-leader, Tina Carter of Airhedz in the UK, was invited to a panel discussion around the question of accessibility in circus. She invited each of us to forward our ideas. But I think there are no concrete answers here. The most important thing is openness to learning from one another and believing that we all have important things to contribute, in circus and elsewhere. Accessibility is a state of mind. That's where it begins...


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