What happens when 22 university students, eight with identified disabilities, join up for a year-long inclusive dance journey? Find out at the premier showing of Becoming Unlimited, Saturday, Oct. 21 at 3:30 p.m. at the Movie Mill.
In the 2014-2015 school year, University of Lethbridge drama professor Lisa Doolittle teamed with Pamela Boyd, artistic director of MOMO, a professional mixed-abilities dance theatre company in Calgary, to create an integrated dance theatre production. After working with local organizations, Inclusion Lethbridge and the South Region Self Advocates Network/SAIPA in 2013-2014, Doolittle was inspired to continue providing drama and dance opportunities at a university level.
“I taught a series of drama/dance workshops to a large mixed ability group,” explains Doolittle. “As they experienced the process of doing drama and dance, we could see that they gained confidence, improved communication skills, built new relationships among themselves and with others, and expressed their points of view in powerful ways.”
Through a for-credit course in mixed abilities drama and dance, Doolittle and Boyd developed a large-scale integrated production, Unlimited, presented on the University of Lethbridge Theatre stage in 2015. Students in the course and production shared assignments and the creation of the production with classmates and cast members who experience disability, exposing them to different perspectives and new ways of creating theatre.
In the end, it wasn’t just the students that learned something. Over a thousand guests that viewed the performance learned something too.
“In talkbacks after the show, many audience members said they could not tell which cast members experienced disability and which did not,” shares Doolittle. “The results of our audience survey demonstrated that this production changed attitudes about disability, and about disability arts.”
Documenting the creative process from intense rehearsals to tearful goodbyes, the 34-minute documentary Becoming Unlimited explores how participation in artistic processes can lead to dynamic change for the inclusion of people with disabilities, on and off the stage.
“The participants who experience disability had an opportunity to study drama and dance at the university level and take part in a dynamic, structured artistic process alongside student peers. The documentary records their reactions to that experience, and it presents their reactions and the observations of their family members, who noticed their new sense of achievement, belonging and the positive change in their lives.”
Becoming Unlimited gives a behind-the-scenes look at the process, and presents candid and sometimes difficult realizations that the team had to work through.
“The film lets viewers experience both the struggles and the exhilaration of our work, and it opens our perception about the many ways that the arts can make a difference.”
Becoming Unlimited airs at the Movie Mill, Saturday, Oct. 21 at 3:30 p.m. Tickets are free, but seat reservations are required. Reserve your tickets at becomingunlimited.eventbrite.ca.