Our resident sexologist takes a look at the latest show from Restless Dance Theatre that explodes the idea that people cannot have a disability and also be sexual beings.
The Dance of Sex and Disability
Human sexuality has always been a taboo topic within Australian culture. The intersectionality of sexuality and living with a disability, albeit physical or intellectual, is unfortunately deemed even more taboo within our society.
Culture, mainstream media, education and politics have been enforcing the idea that people cannot have a disability and be sexual beings for decades.
Adelaide-based dance theatre company Restless Dance Theatre is here to challenge that.
Have you got sexual health, sex, love or relationship questions? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org to have them answered!
For those who haven’t come across them yet, Restless Dance Theatre is a trailblazing company that encourages inclusivity, primarily engaging dancers with intellectual disabilities. They’ve performed in spaces such as the Sydney Opera House and the Adelaide Festival Centre. Their performances are magnetic and the standard is extremely high.
I recently had the privilege to sit down with the directors, creators and dancers that fuel their newest debut show, Private View.
This show oozes sexuality — in more ways than one. Through dance, original music and themes of human sexuality and human connection, Private View shows us that everyone deserves love, safety and sexual expression.
As a performer myself, storytelling through art has always been impactful. Listening to lived experiences is one of the best ways to evoke empathy, understanding and learning from others.
Director Michelle Ryan says “nobody wants to talk about sex and disability, and we have been trained not to talk about it”.
“It is incredibly important to create a space to talk about these topics openly. Sex is fun, it doesn’t have to be dark and heavy all the time. The eagerness to explore is a really beautiful thing for everyone to experience,” Michelle says.
The show is fluid, much like sexuality is.
While most other performances around sexuality go down darker roots such as BDSM and fetish, this show explores the versatility and vulnerability of sex and the human experience. The show speaks to all facets of emotion; romance, love, power, pleasure and loneliness.
There is also a deeper message of freedom within the performance.
As a sexologist, I often hear of stories about people living with a disability having their sexuality gatekept. Sadly, many can’t express themselves privately because their carers don’t understand it and forbid it. If you are attracted to another and have wants, needs and desires, it is a human right to be able to explore it – period.
Eliza, Restless Dance Theatre’s resident intimacy consultant and coach, spoke to the joys of using sexual education as a means of creation with their performers.
They first began creative development by playing with condoms and using different words related to sex. As most people assume people living with a disability aren’t inherently sexual, there’s a huge gap of knowledge for basic sex ed. They played with props like telephones and got the performers to ask questions related to sex in rehearsal.
“It is a great and inclusive way to get everyone comfortable and playful within the space,” Eliza says.
Carla Lippis, Adelaide-based musician and musical director, says that it’s been so refreshing working with Restless Theatre.
“Everyone has wants, hopes and dreams,” Carla says. “We know what we need to achieve but we don’t have to fit ourselves into a rigid box — we know what we have to achieve and we show up.
“The arts industry is still heavily tabooed around disability. If anyone says otherwise, I call BS.”
I wonder if you have ever considered this topic before?
If there’s anything about this topic you find challenging, I ask you to critically think about it and ask yourself why.
Is it because you haven’t seen enough representation of sexuality and disability before? Is it because you were potentially fed mis-information about it?
I encourage you to take the time to educate yourself further. Everyone deserves sexual freedom, and it should not be dictated or gatekept by one group to hold back another.
A great place to start is to see the show!
This show is running from 29 Febuary until 9 March at the Odeon Theatre, for Adelaide Festival.