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Tracking an InVisible Difference
Dance Chronicle  (IF),  Pub Date : 2019-09-02, DOI: 10.1080/01472526.2019.1673078
Barbara Sellers-Young

Dance, Disability and Law: InVisible Difference tracks a revision of ideas about the dancing body and related stage aesthetics in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The book is an extension of a United Kingdom Arts and Humanities Research Council–funded, interdisciplinary project that unites questions of the social context of dance making with the legal frameworks of social justice. The project’s goal is to study the role of human rights norms alongside the broad, legal frameworks in which dance is made, with the additional goal of conceiving new theoretical frameworks responsive to the diversity of dance practice. The four-year project, lasting from 2012 to 2016 and gathered in this volume, combines extensive unstructured conversations, micro-ethnographies, semi-structured interviews, analyses of performances, and knowledge exchanges among artists, dance scholars, and legal experts from England and Australia. The fifteen chapters of Dance, Disability and Law: InVisible Difference are organized into three sections: “Disability, Dance and Critical Frameworks,” “Disability, Dance and the Demands of a New Aesthetic,” and “Disability, Dance and Audience Engagement.” Each section is followed by three blog posts in which the authors expand on ideas introduced in the chapters and policy briefs. Each section is also followed by a policy brief on venues, copyright, and legal tools for dancers that evolved from the project’s conversations among dancers, choreographers, and legal scholars. In the initial chapter, “Disabled Dance: Barriers to Proper Inclusion within Our Cultural Milieu,” Shawn Harmon, Charlotte Waelde, and Sarah Whatley ask the question that is central to the entire project, “What is ‘normal’?” (p. 16). As Harmon, Waelde, and Whatley articulate, the implication of the question is that normal is an unstable category that constantly changes as a cultural milieu evolves new attitudes. They conclude that the public no longer assumes that disability limits the human potential for expressiveness but that current audiences have a limited cultural framework to appreciate the differently abled