Strobes but no seizure
Last week I spoke to Rita Marcalo, the Portuguese dance artist with Epilepsy, who planned to induce a seizure live on stage, while on-lookers filmed it on their mobiles. The 24 hour event happened last Friday to Saturday at the Bradford Playhouse, where Rita, who hadn't been taking her anticonvulsive medication for over a week, drank wine, and was exposed to strobe lighting and flash photography, amongst other usual triggers.
I didn't know how I felt about the event itself. Rita spoke so eloquently in our interview about how her work, Involuntary Dances, was part of a trilogy of pieces, which would take her on an autobiographical journey, exploring the relationship between Rita's body and her epilepsy. She owned her condition she said, and she had taken pains to ensure that the risks to her health were minimal. In fact, as she usually chooses to have a seizure on her own, often in a public toilet, being in a confined space full of cushions and having paramedics on standby made it practically safe. Still, I felt there was no comfortable ending and judging by the press she had received beforehand, she was in for a rough ride whether she achieved her goal or not.
Rita didn't have a seizure. She is reported to have been slightly embarrassed by this but said that the second work in the trilogy would feature video taken of her attempts. As I suspected, the press varied in their post Involuntary Dances reporting. Read blogger David Thompson's sceptical account of Rita's attempts, and then this slightly more balanced review from Jo Verrent at Disability Arts Online.
So as Rita moves forward and the second work in the trilogy is set to become a reality, what has Involuntary Dances achieved?