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Performers with learning difficulties and issues of identity, resistance and collaboration : 'no more hiding behind the curtain'.

Kappes, Irene (2011) Performers with learning difficulties and issues of identity, resistance and collaboration : 'no more hiding behind the curtain'. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

research focuses on the performing arts lives of four performers with learning difficulties, who were all employed by the Razor Edge Theatre Initiative and had been involved in performing arts for many years - as either actor, musician or dancer. The researcher was a joint director of this organisation. The research proposes the use of performing arts methods in inclusive research with artists with learning difficulties. It demonstrates the potential for performers with learning difficulties to explore, reflect on, embody and communicate their thoughts and feelings through their art and thereby contribute to disability research. Performing arts methods become a tool for collecting data, for enabling participants to contribute their views, for presenting findings. The practice-based approach offers an alternative to methods involving verbal interviewing and written representations and contributes to the debates in the literature about finding ways to include verbally less-articulate individuals. In an attempt to build on the work of other inclusive researchers a research process evolved where very little was preordained, in order to leave room for the artists to influence the direction of the research. Collaboration with the artists to develop research that was transforming and useful for them as developing artists became a central concern. Development of an artistic identity can be a means for people with learning difficulties to challenge reductive notions of learning difficulties, as is evidenced by the Disability Arts movement. By foregrounding their claims to an artistic identity and focusing on the participants' skills and ambitions as artists, the stories in this research project emphasise the multi-faceted and transient nature of the artists' identities, as well as their abilities to use their skills as a means of reflection and expression. Artists with learning difficulties need opportunities to develop their skills. The struggle to achieve recognition as an artist can be connected to lack of effective inclusion policies, lack of funding, and to exclusive academic values and aesthetic perceptions based on notions of normal/abnormal. Performers with learning difficulties have to forge their own pathways, create their own opportunities with non-disabled allies in the arts. This they do in the context of theatre, music and dance companies that comprise an artistic community aiming for inclusion. The research suggests that opening up access to Higher Education in performing arts may enable performers with learning difficulties to make contributions to aesthetic developments and debates and to use their art to contribute to disability research.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield) > School of Education (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.556685
Depositing User: EThOS Import Sheffield
Date Deposited: 17 Sep 2019 08:13
Last Modified: 17 Sep 2019 08:13
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/14575

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