UCLA Disability Inclusion Lab: Dancing Disability June 21-28, 2020. Dance Performance as a social actions (Disability Justice Studies and Choreography)

UCLA Disability Inclusion Lab: Dancing Disability June 21-28, 2020. Dance Performance as a social actions (Disability Justice Studies and Choreography)

The UCLA Disability Inclusion Lab’s DANCING DISABILITY will offer experienced and emerging disabled dance artists from across the world an immersive engagement in disability studies scholarship alongside movement exploration and choreographic inquiry. Participants and their instructors will create a new performance work that challenges “ability paradigms.”

The experimental, weeklong exploration will combine small group study of the histories and social discourses surrounding disability justice, aesthetics and culture with movement exploration and choreography. Participants will engage one another through choreographic study and improvisation sessions designed to expand and deepen action languages while they consider how we represent, look at, transform and challenge ideas about the body, and personhood. At the center of this uniquely designed process is the notion that aesthetic production (dance) can serve as a change agent for the continued progress of disability justice.

The lab will culminate in an informal public sharing at UCLA Kaufman Hall’s black box theater.

Dancing Disability, which will be held annually through 2021, will set the stage for increased recruitment on the part of UCLA’s Dance MFA in the Physically Integrated Dance community. More tangible outcomes of Dancing Disability will include essays and scholarship as well as video documentation.

This project is supported through funding from UCLA’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and the School of Arts and Architecture.  The Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance and Undergraduate Education Initiatives are contributing significant in-kind support.

Click here to read the press releases!



Dancing Disability is a week-long dance intensive where dance artists participate in a combination of the dance and disability studies seminars, culminating with an informal public sharing. Breakfast and lunch will be provided to participants throughout the week.

Each day will include the following seminars and labs:

Critical Disability Studies Seminar, led by Rosemarie Garland-Thomson
Click here to view samples of the presentations from the inaugural lab.

Doing LabImprovisational exploration, led by Victoria Marks

Discovery Lab – Disability as opportunity, led by Alice Sheppard

Making Lab – Choreographic inquiry, led by Victoria Marks

Due to COVID-19 disruption, Dancing Disability lab has been postponed to next year. 


Please note that due to this year’s Dancing Disability lab’s postponement to 2021, we will not be accepting applications for the 2021 cohort. Details regarding application for the 2022 cohort will be posted in late 2021. 

APPLICATION DUE: January 31, 2020


*Notification date may be subject to change.

The Dancing Disability Lab warmly welcomes any questions or concerns about the application and the process.  The application process, deadlines and other inaccessible functions may serve as barriers and can be daunting. Dancing Disability hopes to mitigate any barriers to completing the application and ask that you reach out with any questions, concerns, and access needs prior to the extended application deadline of January 31, 2020.

If you do not have reliable access to the internet or are unable to complete an application through our online process, please contact us so we can assist you.


The application consists of four sections: (1) completed cover page, (2) personal statement, (3) curriculum vitae/resume, and (4) a letter of reference.  Incomplete applications will not be considered.

  1. Application Cover Page (Click here to download the cover)
    1. General Information
    2. Accommodations (Information about accommodations will only be used for planning purposes).
    3. Digital Signature
  2. Personal Statement (maximum 600 words)
    1. In addition to the statement, include links to two dance projects: List the title of the work, year, choreographer, composer or design credits, performers, and venue. Make clear your role in the production.
  1. Curriculum Vitae/Resume (maximum 2 pages)
  2. Letter of reference
    1. Obtain a letter of reference from a person for whom you have worked or with whom you have collaborated as a dancer or choreographer. This should be emailed directly to us by the recommender at dancingdisability@college.ucla.edu.


  1. Download and complete the application cover page.
  2. Email the (1) completed cover page, (2) personal statement, and (3) curriculum vitae/resume to the Dancing Disability Application Portal.  The (4) letter of reference must be emailed directly to dancingdisability@college.ucla.edu.


Dancing Disability is free of cost to participants. Thanks to generous support, travel arrangements and lodging for all participants accepted into the program will be covered.


  • The Awesome Foundation offers $1,000 no-strings-attached grants every month to people who identify as a person with a disability. These grants can fund any “awesome” idea. For more information, visit their website.
  • For CA Residents: California residents are strongly encouraged to apply for funding from the National Arts & Disability CenterCalifornia Arts Leaders Investments (CALI) offers $1,000 grants every month to California residents who have worked for fewer than 10 consecutive years in the arts field, who work with a non-profit in CA as an administrator, artist, board member, or key volunteer. These grants can fund opportunities for emerging arts professional to identify, exercise, and hone their vision or voice. For more information, visit their website.
  • For AZ Residents: The Arizona Commission on the Arts offers grants ranging from $500-750 to Arizona artists, arts administrators, and arts educators to support professional development and skills-building activities which contribute to significant professional growth. For more information, visit their website.
  • For OR Residents: The Oregon Arts Commission offers career opportunity grants ranging from $500-1500 to Oregon residents. Applications must not be students. For more information, visit their website.
  • For NV Residents: The Nevada Arts Council offers monthly professional development grants up to $650 to promote the continuing education of Nevada artists. For more information, visit their website.
Vic Marks portrait

Vic Marks portrait

Victoria Marks, an Alpert Award winner, Guggenheim and Rauschenberg Fellow, and Fulbright Distinguished Scholar, has been practicing knowing and unknowing, making dances for stage and film, for the past 37 years. Her work continues to consider citizenship, as well as the representation of disability. Marks’ creative work migrates between choreo-portraits and action conversations for individuals who don’t identify as dancers, and dances for dancers that fuel her inquiries into movement. Upcoming, Marks and Dan Hurlin re-envision Appalachian Spring.  A recipient of numerous grants, fellowships and awards for her work, Marks has also received the Grand Prix in the Video Danse Festival, the Golden Antenae Award from Bulgaria, the IMZ Award for best screen choreography and the Best of Show in the Dance Film Association’s Dance and the Camera Festival along with director Margaret Williams. In addition to teaching in WACD, Victoria serves as Associate Dean in UCLA’s School of Arts and Architecture, and as the Chair of UCLA’s Disability Studies minor.

Rosemarie_Garland-Thomson portrait

Rosemarie Garland-Thomson portrait

Rosemarie Garland-Thomson is a national spokesperson for disability whose essay, “Becoming Disabled” was recently featured as the lead piece in a new series by the New York Times of weekly essays by and about people living with disabilities. She is a professor of English and Bioethics at Emory University and co-director of the Emory College Disability Studies Initiative (DSI). She holds affiliated faculty appointments in the Department Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, the Institute of Liberal Arts, the Center for Ethics, the Institute of Human Rights, and the Office of Sustainability Initiatives.

During her academic career, she has been a leader of interdisciplinary critical disability studies, the emergent field in higher education that promotes inclusion and brings innovative perspectives on disability to academic venues and the wider world. Broadly speaking, her foremost contribution is to bring forward the significance of making the world more accessible in every way to all people.

Alice Sheppard portrait

Alice Sheppard portrait

Alice Sheppard saw Homer Avila, a disabled dancer, perform in 2004. Avila dared her to take a dance class; she did, and she loved moving so much that she resigned her academic professorship at Pennsylvania State University in order to begin a career in dance. She studied ballet and modern dance with Kitty Lunn and made her debut with Infinity Dance Theater. Sheppard joined AXIS Dance Company, an Oakland-based company where she toured nationally and taught in the company’s education and outreach programs. Since becoming an independent artist, Sheppard has danced in projects with Ballet Cymru, GDance, and Marc Brew Company in the United Kingdom and Full Radius Dance, Marjani Forté, MBDance, Infinity Dance Theater, and Steve Paxton in the United States.

An award-winning choreographer, Alice creates movement that challenges conventional understandings of disabled and dancing bodies. Engaging with disability arts, culture and history, Alice’s commissioned work attends to the complex intersections of disability, gender, and race. Alice is the founder and artistic lead for Kinetic Light, a project based collaborative working at the intersections of architecture, dance, design, identity, and technology to show how mobility – literal, physical, and conceptual – is fundamental to participation in civic life and to American national identity.

Alice is a board member for Dance/NYC, Urban Bush Women, Jess Curtis/Gravity and a leadership council member for CounterPulse. She has served on Dance/NYC’s Disability.Dance.Artistry Taskforce, grant review panels, and is a regular keynote speaker on disability, dance and accessibility.

For more information visit alicesheppard.com

2019 Cohort
Kelsie Acton (Canada) – Kelsie Acton graduated with a BA in Drama from the University of Alberta in 2006, followed by an MA in Theatre Studies from the University of Guelph. While in Guelph she began to study with Dance Theatre David Earle. She has worked with CRIPSiE, Toy Guns Dance Theatre and Rising Sun Theatre in Edmonton. Her choreography has been presented by Dancefest@Nextfest, the Edmonton International Fringe Festival, Latitude 53 and the Expanse Movement Arts Festival.
Bailey Anderson (North Carolina)- Bailey Anderson is an activist, artist, scholar, and teacher who mediates knowledge through the body. Anderson has performed with David Gordon’s Pick up Company, Nicholas Leichter Dance, and Emily Johnson’s Catalyst. Their work has been presented at the Canadian Society for Dance Studies, Sans Souci Dance Film Festival, in London at the Society for Dance Research, and at the Body-Mind Centering Association Conference. Anderson is currently working on a project funded through the New York Public Library’s Short-Term Research Fellowship entitled “Emotions and Mental Health: Disability Aesthetics in Early Modern Dance.” Anderson received a BA in Dance and History from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and an MFA in Dance from the University of Colorado Boulder. Anderson has most recently been a Visiting Artist Scholar at the University of North Carolina in Asheville and will be a visiting teacher at Ursinus College.
Margaret Bridger (Chicago)-Margaret Bridger is a dance artist, writer, health activist and teaching artist. Her choreographic work has been presented at Access Living, a leading disability rights organization in Chicago; and her writing has appeared in her blog, Crohn’s Chronicles. Bridger earned her AA from Cottey College in 2008 and her BA in dance with concentrations in dance making and dance studies from Columbia College Chicago in 2011. Bridger is a doctoral student in Disability Studies at the University of Illinois, Chicago.
Mel Chua (Georgia)- Mel Chua is a dance artist, engineer, auditory low-pass filter, and multimodal polyglot currently working at the Biomedical Engineering department of Georgia Tech in the Studio for Transforming Engineering Learning and Research (STELAR) while completing her Ph.D. at Purdue University’s School of Engineering Education. Chua received her B.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Olin College of Engineering and spent several years in the open source software and hardware industry before returning to academia. Chua’s research focuses on faculty development, learning in hacker/maker communities, embodied qualitative research methodologies, and prototyping alternate ontologies of curricular culture in engineering education.
Suzanne Cowan (New Zealand)- Suzanne Cowan is an artist that has worked in dance as a performer (e.g. CandoCo Dance Company, UK; Touch Compass, New Zealand), choreographer, teacher and researcher. Cowan recently completed her Doctor of Philosophy in Dance Studies at the University of Auckland, becoming the first wheelchair user in the world to complete a Practice as Research PhD in Dance.
Vanessa Cruz (California)– Vanessa Cruz received her Associate’s Degree in Dance at Santa Monica College. Currently, Cruz is the first disabled dance major at the California State University Long Beach.
Christelle Dryer (South Africa)-Christelle Dreyer is a dancer, graphic designer, and performer. Dreyer obtained a National Diploma in Graphic Design from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and a Baccalaureus Technologiae in Graphic Design. Currently working towards her Magister Technologiae. As a Ballroom and Latin dancer, Dreyer won first place for her section at the 2007 Holland World (disabled) Champions in Boxmeer, Amsterdam. Contemporary dance work includes performing with, and as a teaching artist with Remix Dance Company.
Mark Travis Rivera (California) – Mark Travis Rivera is an activist, author, choreographer, dancer, speaker, and writer. Rivera is the youngest person to found a physically integrated dance company in the United States. marked dance project (MDP), a contemporary company for dancers with and without disabilities. Outside of MDP, Rivera worked as an apprentice dancer for Heidi Latsky Dance, a New York City-based integrated dance company artistically directed by Heidi Latsky. Rivera has also danced for Band of Artists in Philadelphia, PA, and served as an apprentice for AXIS Dance Company. A graduate of William Paterson University, Rivera earned a B.A in women’s & gender studies with a minor in public relations. In 2013, Rivera received the Student Government Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award for his commitment to the William Paterson community. Rivera later won the Audre Lorde Award for Social Justice from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY. Rivera currently serves as the Community Engagement Manager for AXIS Dance Company.
Octavia Rose Hingle (California) – Octavia Rose Hingle is an adaptive dance artist, storyteller and educator born & raised in the East Bay Area. Their work addresses visions of past and future ancestors that travel through the plastic vessel of the present moment. Through performance and installation, they offer experiences that may uncover the inherent wisdom of our flesh and the resilience of the landscapes we reside in. Hingle is currently an artist in residence with SAFEhouse for the Arts in San Francisco, and has recently performed with LEVYsalon and the National Queer Arts Festival 2018. Hingle holds a BA in dance from Middlebury College, and have studied with AXIS Dance Company, ODC/Dance, and Headlong Performance Institute.
Harmanie Taylor (Canada) – Harmanie Taylor is a facilitator, choreographer, and performer. Taylor has been actively involved in the integrated dance movement since 2006. Taylor has worked with Alice Sheppard, CRIPSiE (AB), Real Wheels Theatre (BC), and is a co-facilitator with All Bodies Dance Project, an integrated dance company based in Vancouver, BC. Taylor’s latest works premiere in June 2019 at the All Bodies Dance Project Production: Magic and Remembering. Taylor holds a BA in Dramatic Arts from the University of Lethbridge and an Arts and Cultural Management certificate from MacEwan University.

Application Questions:

If I don’t identify as having a disability or being physically different, can I apply for Dancing Disability?
Dancing Disability is intended for those who identify as having a disability or physical difference. Priority will be given to those who identify as having a disability or being physically different.

I am a dance artist with an invisible disability. Can I apply?
Yes! Any dance artist who identifies as having a disability is welcome to apply.

I’m a dance artist from outside of the U.S., can I apply?
Yes! Additionally, your travel expenses and lodging will be covered.

The email address to upload my application is odd. Is that the correct email address?
Yes, this is an automatically-generated email address. Unfortunately, we cannot change this address. You will receive a confirmation email when you submit your application materials.

What should I do if my reference needs more time to submit their letter of recommendation?
Please contact Dancing Disability at dancingdisability@college.ucla.edu if you would like to request an extension.

Participant Questions:

Where will participants be housed?
Participants will receive lodging at the Luskin Conference Center.

What are some accessible transportation options in Los Angeles?
Uber and Lyft are popular rideshare options in LA where you can request an accessible vehicle. Additionally, the following cab companies have accessibility options: L.A. Yellow CabL.A. City CabChecker Cab, and United Independent Taxi. The following website gives users an overview of public transportation options as well: https://wheelchairtravel.org/los-angeles-ca/.

Open Studio Questions:

Will the Dancing Disability Open Studio be accessible?
The public sharing of Dancing Disability will have ASL interpretation, audio description, and captioning. The public showing will be fragrance-free. Please refrain from wearing scented products such as perfumes/cologne, hair products, and scented lotions. Please also be aware that UCLA is a smoke and tobacco free campus. Other access requests can be considered. Attendees are encouraged to make their needs known as soon as possible by contacting Dancing Disability. Glorya Kaufman Hall is ADA accessible. A map displaying accessible pathways, building entrances, and parking structures is available here: https://maps.ucla.edu/downloads/pdf/Access_08_21_15.pdf

Questions not on this list? Please email Dancing Disability.