Relaxed Performance: An Ethnography of Pedagogy in Praxis

Authors: Carla Rice, Chelsea Temple Jones, Jessica Watkin, Kayla Besse


In this co-written ethnography, we offer a co-curated account of how it feels to build, negotiate, witness and benefit from a community of practice nurtured by the principles of relaxed performance (RP). RP is a movement that invites all involved in a performance— from directors to performers to audiences—to be themselves (LaMarre, Rice and Besse). This invitation speaks to both technical interventions (such as dimmed lights and reduced ticket prices, among others) and social interventions rooted in disability justice frameworks, which offer an intersectional approach of thinking about body-mind difference in context. RP is an increasingly common intervention to performance production that pushes back against the “quiet or invisible” audience (Simpson 277), thus cultivating a new community of practice within which the four authors of this paper are deeply embedded. Our work teaching and researching RP takes place within neoliberal and colonial structures of post-secondary education and academic ableism across Turtle Island (northern part of the lass mass known as America) (Dolmage). Our deeply reflective accounts, informed by performance pedagogy and critical approaches to education, invite further thought on race, disability, gender and efforts to decolonize performance ethnography, as we deliberately draw on our intersecting positions as researchers, performers, writers, theatre-goers and audience members steeped in emergent and, at times, radical RP pedagogy. Here, we offer a relational account of our experiences moving between three multi-sensory performances and the university classroom, describing our own participation in the complex processes of community-building with body-mind difference in mind. 

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What a Body Can Do: Rethinking Body Functionality Through a Feminist Materialist Disability Lens

Authors: Carla Rice, Sarah Riley, Andrea LaMarre, K. Alysse Bailey

A burgeoning body of literature shows a positive relationship between body functionality and positive body image. Although still nascent, research centering experiences of people with disabilities and bodily differences develops this literature. In this article, we offer directions for this research, bringing body functionality into dialogue with feminist materialist disability theory to examine relations between people’s bodily perceptions and the socio-material worlds they occupy. Feminist disability theory re-imagines difference through an affirmative lens, conceptualising body image as relational and processual, and approaching difference through four orientations: difference is basic to the world; difference is not deficiency; difference is not the problem, our inhospitable and ableist world is; and centering difference exposes the mythical norm. We apply this lens to body functionality research, and outline implications for research, practice, and theory, arguing that building a bridge between these frameworks offers a stepping off point for exciting directions for body image research.

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