Last Monday, I had the chance to interview Ellice Patterson, founder of Abilities Dance Boston, a dance company that aims to disrupt disability misconceptions and spread the value of inclusion through dance. As you know, this is not the first time we have showcased professional dancers in our blog, which begs the question how can dance, or sports in general, change our relationship to disabled and/or disfigured bodies?
Patterson had her first spinal surgery back in 2010 and just 7 years later she started her dance company. “I needed to create a place for me in dance,” she claims resolute in her commitment to find a space that would allow her to develop her skills professionally. She recounts a time when she asked a company director if they could adjust the movements so that she could participate. She was told that it wasn’t possible because “this is a professional company.”
Growing the company from one to fifteen has not been easy, but moments like getting to perform in the Alvin Ailey Theater Company two years ago made it all worth it. When it is practice time, “anything composed by Andrew Choe”, the director of music for her dance company and whom she works with closely to tie inspiration with sound daily, gets her going. When asked what percentage of her identity revolves around her disability, she believes that it is as important as race, gender, and sexuality. “My disability makes me feel strong and proud,” she admits.
As she is recovering from her second surgery, she mentions “I have to take time to reintegrate myself [with my body]” which usually entails taking time to work on each of her movements, patience, and reminders that “I have done this before.” Similarly to paralympic champion Veronica, I get the sense that Ellice has a respect for her body that transcends judgement and limitations. It is like her body is a separate identity that she aims to reunite with, in an almost holy and ritualistic way. I wonder, if able-bodied people regarded their bodies in the same way, would they be more accepting and loving of their bodies.
To attend Ellice's next performance in NYC, get tickets here
Photo cred: Eric Levin and Victoria Awkward