Melinda Smith uses the mediums of painting, drawing, creative writing, and dance for personal expression. Melinda lives with cerebral palsy, which has necessitated the use of powered wheelchairs and speech generating devices. Melinda’s dance career began in 2006 when she performed with a small theatre group called Amuse Ability. In 2010 she helped to establish a small dance troupe of wheelchair users, known as Wheel Women, who partnered with Fusion Theatre to develop the stage production Perfectly Imperfect. Here she met choreographer Dianne Reid, and began to develop her dance practice. Mel worked with Weave Movement Theatre between 2010 – 2015 she performing in several Weave productions, working with choreographer/directors Yumi Umiumare, Penny Baron, Carolyn Hannah and Nick Papas from Born in a Taxi, Sally Smith and international guest Caroline Bowditch. Melinda has collaborated on the 2016 development of Subject A vs. Subject B directed by Joshua Pether. Since 2015 she has been attending regular workshops in Body Mind Centering and dance improvisation with Alice Cummins. Melinda comes from a professional background of mentoring and consultancy in the disability and education sectors. In 2008 Melinda began to develop a series of conference presentations and workshops promoting the health and wellbeing outcomes of dance and movement for people who have physical disabilities, in particular, wheelchair users. She continues to develop her work as a trainer and mentor for people with diverse physical needs.
This paper is a conversation about building depth in our relationships with our bodies and our meeting points with each other. Framed within the context of an improvisational dance practice, the authors, Dianne Reid and Melinda Smith, reflect upon their long-term shared dance practice, their evolving performance work, Dance Interrogations, and the cultural shifts possible as a result of long-term artistic practice. Their unique, long-standing collaboration (over six years and continuing) is unique in Australia and internationally. It is a collaboration which challenges deeply held beliefs around the low expectations of people who have a disability and explores the choreographic potential in the body and artist who experiences Cerebral Palsy—a condition affecting the muscular and skeletal system and which can make voluntary movement such as that in dance, difficult. Their practice itself constantly shifts between artistic formats in both studio and performance contexts, and draws upon a range of technologies familiar within the cultures of screendance and disability. This account is improvisational, an undoing of structure, to encourage other angles and depths of perception.