UPDATE: Many of you are here to read about Lady Gaga's Sydney performance. HI!
I'm writing about this as we speak. If you are interested in knowing about why it isn't appropriate for non-disabled performers to pretend to be disabled here is a post on Fox's Glee -- non disabled actor Kevin McHale plays a disabled character, Artie.
My most recent post about La Gaga and her chair is here.
thanks for stopping by!
Everyone has been asking me, "did you see the wheelchair dancer on the VMA? With Lady Gaga?" I didn't. I don't have a television (by choice). Since then, I have been chasing down images and video of this so-called wheelchair dancer: Youtube keeps removing them for reasons of copyright violation. Finally, however, I am in the picture: Lady Gaga shows up dancing with (among other things) a crutch and, about halfway into the song, a woman in a wheelchair is wheeled on by a large muscular African American man.
People let me be clear: There's a lot to say about the racial and gender politics of that performance. There's as much to say about the politics of disability. AND that wasn't an example of dancing in a wheelchair. That was NOT wheelchair dancing. That woman (I don't know whether she is disabled) did not perform as a dancer; she was a prop. If you didn't see it -- this picture is from the mtv site and the video clip is from Lady Gaga's own site (the wheelchair moment is just after the 2 minute marker); I can't post them for copyright reasons.
Anyway, check out the slumped position and revel in the 2 or 3 arm jerks; we don't get to see the woman's face - that might be a feature of camera angle and the clip, though. Is this woman disabled? I suspect not. I suppose that this was some hyper ableist imagination of spasticity and paralysis. But suppose for a moment that she is disabled. Imagine that this movement is what her body does as she dances. Why didn't they stop and explore it? Why not choreograph it so that we can see a disabled body move? And if you want some wild arm flinging movement, why not integrate her into the piece itself. There's some pretty wild arm flinging going on in the non-disabled sphere; she'd fit right in. But no. As usual, the (fake?) disabled person is merely a body wheeled on for display in a piece of gaudy pop art that passes for a wheelchair.
I'm not up for celebrating this piece of scenery as a "historic occasion:" the first time anything disability related shows up at the VMA. I would be impressed if Lady Gaga et al had hired actual dancers who use wheelchairs to be part of the performance. If you don't like any of the arty modern dance/ballet companies and hate ballroom dancing, hire the Colours 'N Motion hip hop dancers. There are disabled dancers who use wheelchairs. But whatever you do and whoever you hire, respect the art, reward the artistry, and support the artists whose work it is to extend their bodies in the power and grace of dance.