MAD – Mixed Abled Dance Co-productions recently received the Outstanding Artist Award 2020 (tanz.at reported). This begged the question, who is behind this role model for disability arts that changes the perspective of art and of disability? I met with the artistic directors Elisabeth Löffler and Vera Rosner, as well as the performer Frans Poelstra on Zoom.
MAD was founded by wheelchair dancers to support performers with disabilities to hone their artistic work. Co-founders Elisabeth Löffler, Vera Rosner, Cornelia Scheuer and – behind the scene – Guido Reimitz began the preparatory work in 2013. The team met primarily at Elisabeth Löffler’s home, who at the time had a young daughter to care for. Elisabeth Löffler stated, “I really appreciated that everyone got involved and that we were able to do the meetings at my home at the time. Otherwise, I would not have been able to participate”.
However, it would not have been the same without the distinguished performer and key figure in the Austrian performance scene. Over the years, Elisabeth has consistently pushed aside prejudices, for example, when Elfriede Ott parried her wish to become an actress by saying “You could make a radio broadcast, at least you can’t be seen there.”
Despite these debilitating comments Elisabeth found strength from others who helped her succeed on her own path. Daniel Aschwanden, a pioneer in local inclusive performance work was one key supporter. Aschwanden cast Elisabeth not only in his plays, but also accompanied her to workshops at home and abroad, leaving Elisabeth with the confidence to not only continue dancing but learn skills and methods on how to teach other dancers who are wheelchair handy.
One method particularly suitable for working with dancers in a wheelchair is contact improvisation. This is why contact improvisation dancers like Steve Paxton, Emery Blackwell, Jonathan Burrows and Andrew Harwood are role models for Vera Rosner and Elisabeth Löffler. At first, Harwood was not at all enthusiastic about Elisabeth’s participation in his workshops. Each time Elisabeth was forced to negotiate terms so that she could stay. “It was only after three workshops that he fully accepted that I would take part,” reported Elisabeth.
Meanwhile, the young woman pursuing her acting ambitions had become a self-confident and self-determined performer. For many years, Elisabeth performed in works by Josi Wananu (tanz.at reported, among other things on The Audition). She later teamed up with Wananu and Frans Poelstra who worked behind the scenes on Elisabeth’s latest solo, “FixMeIfUCan.” In succession to her latest work, the gorgeous sit-down comedy “FixMeIfUCan” is Löffler’s own artistic branding. In the true sense of the word, she not only performs, but wrote the script herself.
DER GANZE ARTIKEL AUF ENGLISCH: https://www.artsforhealthaustria.eu/sit-down-with-mad/
DER GANZE ARTIKEL AUF DEUTSCH: http://www.tanz.at/index.php/magazin/interviews/2437-mad-zurecht-gerueckt