Disability, the dancer and the dance with specific reference to three choreographers
: Caroline Bowditch, Marc Brew and Claire Cunningham

  • Gill Williams

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    This thesis offers critical exploration of the intersection of four elements within the historical space, or field, of UK theatre dance between 2007 and 2012: disability, impairment, dance and artistry.

    It addresses four questions: What is disability? What is disability in relation to dance? What supports the entry of a disabled dance artist into the field of professional dance in the twenty-first century? How can we approach a critical analysis of the works they create?

    At the centre of the thesis are case studies of three self-described disabled dance artists, performers and choreographers: Caroline Bowditch, Marc Brew, and Claire Cunningham. The studies attend to the form and content of their creative work, the structures of the dance field in which they practice as artists, and their personal and career trajectories.

    The studies are both situated by and situate earlier chapters addressing constructions of disability, cultural representations of disability and the emerging field of Disability Arts. They demonstrate that disability, in dance as in other fields, concerns attitudes, arrangements and structures that disable participation. These are attitudes fed by imaginings around the ideal dancing body, and the illusion that variations in bodily form and capabilities are neither normal nor to be expected.

    I draw on Bourdieu’s concepts of habitus and field to consider the interconnections between structures, external and internalised, that support or limit the disabled artist’s perception of what is possible for them within the professional dance field.

    Using Cameron’s affirmative model of disability, I argue that when disabled dance artists are freed to use their experiences of living in a disabling world, and to make use of the unique capabilities of their bodies as valid sources for their art, they can and do contribute to the capacity of dance as an art form to explore the full depth and range of human experience.
    Date of Award2014
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorSarah Whatley (Supervisor) & Natalie Garrett Brown (Supervisor)


    • dance
    • choreography
    • disability
    • disabled artists

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