Disabled Theater confronts society’s social constructs, labels, discrimination and the idea of normalcy, while balancing humor and life-affirming joy, opening the stage to the perspective of individuals with intellectual disabilities. With Disabled Theater, Jerôme Bel sheds light on the dynamics of exclusion that leads to the marginalization of those who are considered unable to produce, exposing how, on the contrary, they are able to question the very mechanisms of representation. Harbourfront Centre’s World Stage invites audiences to the Canadian premiere of Jérôme Bel & Theater HORA’s Disabled Theater, March 25-28, 2015.

The performance – a partnership that began with an invitation from Zurich’s Theater HORA, a company that promotes and presents the work of people with intellectual disabilities, to French artist Jérôme Bel – is a re-staging of the choreographer’s first meeting with the performers. In their first introduction, his questions and their presence reveal the dynamics of exclusion and the limits of political correctness.

“I was taught by my parents not to look at disabled people, because if I looked at them they would feel uncomfortable. And I realized this is the same in society,” explains director and choreographer Jérôme Bel. “They don’t exist; they exist in their families, in their institutions but not outside of them. They are not represented in the public sphere. If one is not represented one doesn’t exist. And representation is my job.”

Challenging the notion that is “other” to experimental theatre with Disabled Theater, Bel opens up a space where disability is not expelled from visual and discursive practices, nor hidden behind the screen of political correctness. Instead, he places it squarely at the center of a discourse that has a bearing on both the esthetic and political dimensions.

Jérôme Bel is an award-winning choreographer and leader in the non-dance movement, who has worked in dozen of countries around the world. This production marks the first time his work has been presented in Toronto. In his works, the rules of dance and theatre are treated like the syntax of a language that is analyzed and eventually put into play. His choreographies could be interpreted as statements in favour of the democratization of dance.

Theater HORA’s intention is to support and promote the creative and artistic development of people with learning disabilities, as well as provide the space for them to express themselves as individuals, contributing important cultural and social lessons for society. The performers with intellectual disabilities are permanent company members, and have traveled and been a part of many different projects.

For full company and performance information, including photos, videos and details surrounding World Stage Extras, please visit harbourfrontcentre.com/worldstage.

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