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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Letting bodies be bodies: Exploring Relaxed Performance in the Canadian performance landscape

Authors: Andrea LaMarre, Carla Rice, Kayla Besse

There is an increasing movement toward accessibility in arts spaces, including recent legislative changes and commitments at individual, organizational, and systemic levels to integrating access into the arts across Canada. In this article, we explore Relaxed Performance (RP) in the context of this movement. We present the results of a reflexive thematic analysis of interviews conducted with participants who completed RP training offered by the British Council to . understand the training’s effectiveness and impact. We explore the significance of the training, and of RP in general, and in relation to disability studies and cultural and political activism. We undertake this exploration against a backdrop of interrogating who RP is for and by. The themes we describe are: Committed to Access, Training is Critical, Inviting Bodies to be Bodies, and Imagining Audiences. These themes tell a story of how RP relates to broader access work, the importance of training grounded in and led by disability/difference, the need to consider the relationships between bodies and spaces, and the tensions inherent to billing RP as “for all.” We conclude with an exploration of possible modifications, enhancements, or theoretical imaginings that could help RP to become more radically open to difference as it emerges, shifts, and changes.

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