Dr Shawn Harmon is Lecturer in Regulation and Risk at the University of Edinburgh. He is interested in medical and human rights law and jurisprudence, governance and regulation of new and emerging technologies, particularly those implicating human health, interactions between law, science and the arts, and the operation and impact of law and ethics in society and their application in dynamic and culturally contested settings. His particular interest is in how high-level and deeply-held socio-moral values are expressed in regulatory frameworks, and how regulation is performed and experienced in society.
Several UK dancers with physical impairments have been developing careers as dance makers, leaders and performers but there remain many barriers for dancers with disabilities to enter training and then the dance profession. Each has a story about the experience of being accepted, or not, within the ‘mainstream’ contemporary dance environment. This paper examines the experience of artists who are contributing to a research project that brings together experts in dance and law to discover more about what would better enable dancers with disabilities to play a full role within the cultural landscape. Observations based on witnessing rehearsals together with analysing the discourse that emerges from the artists’ work shows the potential impact of this work on legal frameworks and the dominant aesthetic frameworks that take root in professional dance practice. The paper brings fresh insights to questions about how we critically engage with and value disabled dance.