Deconstructing Disability

A two-woman dance team in which one woman performs in a wheelchair will provide the feature cultural event at a “Deconstructing Disabilities” conference Thursday in the Smith Center Ballroom.


This is the fifth annual such conference, said Jody Ramey, coordinator of the Disability Advocacy Cultural Association at Portland State (DACA). The conference will run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.


The wheelchair dancer, Charlene Curtiss, sustained a spinal cord injury in a gymnastics accident. An attorney by profession, in 1985 she began a new career as a dancer and choreographer. She dubbed her wheelchair technique “front-end edge control.”


Curtiss teamed up with Joanne Petroff to form Light Motion of Seattle, a two-woman performance and teaching team. They have conducted artist-in-residence programs in various cities of the U.S. and Hong Kong. On Thursday’s program they are scheduled to appear around 2:30 p.m. to conduct a dance master class and present a short performance.


Until last year DACA was the Students with Disabilities Union.


“The name was changed so the organization includes everybody concerned with disabilities, not just people with disabilities,” Ramey said. He cited children with disabilities and parents of students with disabilities.


Every year the conference considers a different theme. This year’s theme is “Dance.” Ramey described the theme as “deconstructing disabilities through dance.” The continuing theme of the annual conferences is “deconstructing the social construction of disability in society.” Previous conferences have considered such themes as spirituality.


Thursday, the period from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. will be devoted to presentations and panel discussions. Michelle Nario-Redmond of the Reed College faculty will discuss “Deconstructing Disability and Disability Culture.”


Administrators from the Disability Art and Culture Project, a program of Oregon Cultural Access, will discuss two dance-related topics. One is “Inclusive Dance: the World View.” The second is “Deconstructing Disability in Dance: The Artist’s Perspective.”


Oregon Cultural Access, Ramey said, is a tri-county organization that provides accessible dance programs that include participants with and without disabilities.


The suggested donation for the conference is $5 to $20, but no one will be turned away for lack of funds, the coordinator said.


“The aim of DACA is to serve all kinds of people with disabilities who go to college and are leaders in their careers,” Ramey said.


Many students with disabilities do not fall within the 18-22 age bracket. This makes them representative of the entire campus community since two-thirds of the campus community, he said, does not fit into the 18-22 bracket.


The DACA office is located in room 118 of Smith Center. Katy Lynette is co-coordinator and Crystal Elinski serves at outreach coordinator.