Typing “disability” in Youtube’s search engine reveals a variety of videos. Some create a spectacle of difference, while others fetishize the body. Still others approach a more complex and nuanced reading of ability, privilege, and difference.
The following video, simply called “How To Dance Without Legs,” offers a critique of the dominant paradigms of bodies.
The visual culture of this video serves as active resistance in that the privileged, abled body is challenged. We enter into the ballet studio, a space relegated to the abled body by nature of its construction. The positionality of the ballet barre exempts some disabled bodies from participation. The built environment of the studio is created with the premise that the dancers will be exceptionally abled (this is also true of many of the positions and movements in classical ballet). The culture of ability, uniformity, and bodily perfection, however, is transformed once the dancer without legs enters the studio.
At first, he is a mere observer, but a powerful reversal is signaled once he enters the dance studio and begins to move with the skill of a highly refined dancer: his entry into a physically regulated space signals an unavoidable disruption. We as viewers are made to question the hegemonic standard of ability, its sedimented presence and its exclusivity. The video’s focus on absence, on restriction, asks the viewer to question why dance culture has so seldom included disabled bodies.
Further, the fluidity of the two dancers’ bodies speaks to a corporeal blending. Indeed a multiplicity of form can, and should, exist. The blending of forms begins the important work of pointing to the artificiality of privileging one body over another. Here, in this visual argument, the narrative of perfection is being contested. This is particularly true because of the agility and grace of both dancers.
Once the ballet is over, the dancer leaves just as he arrived, as if to assert that such movement, and, most importantly, such inclusion, can be innate and effortless.