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Strobes but no seizure

Emma Emma | 09:46 UK time, Wednesday, 16 December 2009

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?


  • Comment number 1.

    What has Involuntary Dances achieved? Well, it's achieved an increase in Rita Marcalo's bank balance. It's also been "controversial" enough to get her at least two articles on the BBC website and any amount of exposure in the blogosphere. Exposure and money, isn't that what every artist wants?

  • Comment number 2.

    Just read Jo Verrent's account of Rita Marcalo's event and whilst many may be disappointed she failed to have a seizure, I believe that wasn't the point of the exercise. Art is never neutral, therefore one has to judge its function; in my view this was just a petty bourgeois "freak show" where the person with an impairment employed her body for exploitative reasons and the middle class idiots at the Arts Council followed like Little Bo Peep's sheep.

  • Comment number 3.


    Thanks, for the information regarding the story about, strobes & lights....

    =Dennis Junior=

  • Comment number 4.

    Fewer than5% of people who have E are actually photosensitive. I don't recall having read anywhere that Rita Marcalo is photosensitive. Therefore, there are two possible reasons for the performance to include the alleged trigger of strobes: 1) Theatrical effect. 2) Theatrical effect.

  • Comment number 5.

    As someone who has had epilepsy all their life I cant believe anyone with epilepsy anyone would prostitute their condition like this. Its certainly not art! Baggierobert hit the nail on the head when he called it a 'Freak Show', thus reducing the audience to the same level as the fascinated gawpers who congregate around anyone unlucky enough to have a grand mal siezure in public. So she made money out of this little stunt, despite not having a siezure. Maybe she could do something laudable and actually benifitial to people with epilepsy and donate the money to epilepsy research.

  • Comment number 6.

    What puzzled me was the headline to the above article. I mean, in view of the fact that being photosensitive is rare, would it not have been more realistic to entitle this piece SLEEPLESS, BUT NO SEIZURE. Perhaps it might have been an even better idea to call it AED STRIKE, BUT NO SEIZURE. Why are these non E-Types so obsessed with strobe lights? You'd think they'd know better on Ouch! Strange old world....

  • Comment number 7.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 8.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 9.

    I am very much delighted to read this article.AS Baggie Robert says Art is never neutral, therefore one has to judge its function.

  • Comment number 10.

    I'm not sure if this link will be permitted, but we'll give it a try.
    At least this info is authentic.

  • Comment number 11.

    Does anybody know what happened to the second and third parts of this "trllogy"? Surely it would be worth while for Ouch! to report on them. How about it, Emma?


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