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Wheelchair Procession Along Sanctuary Eco-Art Trail

October 12, 2023 @ 5:00 pm 6:00 pm EDT

Join Petra Kuppers on a literal journey, as we will walk the Sanctuary Eco-Art Trail and engage in a number of easy 7-minute improvised dances together. Our dances might develop from touching a leaf or from letting fingertips rest on the soil.

  •  5PM – 6PM: Wheelchair Procession along Sanctuary Eco-Art Trail with Petra Kuppers & diverse disability networks (we will start from the Sanctuary @ 3361 6th Ave. and journey to Freedom Square at the intersection of 6th Ave & 101st St.)
  • 6PM -7 PM: Community meal
  • 7PM – 9PM: Petra Kuppers’ Dream Performance & Workshop (3361 6th Ave, Troy, NY 12181)

We welcome people of all abilities!

MediaSanctuary · Petra Kuppers: Disability Culture Activist and a Community Performance Artist


ADDITIONAL INFO: In these two sessions, Petra will take participants on journeys: in the first at 5pm, on a literal journey, as we will walk the trail and engage in a number of easy 7-minute improvised dances together. We will then gather together and share a community meal in the Sanctuary.

In the second session, Dream Performance and Workshop at 7pm in the Sanctuary, Petra will use the inspiration from the trail procession to improvise a movement meditation that connects us to the land and its histories and futures. You can engage this meditation in stillness, lying on the floor or sitting in a chair, or you can dance freely in space – your choice. Bring comfy clothes, and maybe a blanket. If accessible to you, also bring writing or drawing material, so we can have a harvesting session after the dream journey, for you to chronicle your experience.

This workshop is a development from Petra’s Starship Somatics classes – a modality she developed during the lockdown of COVID. Starship Somatics engage our bodymindspirits as portals, as trance-mobiles that honor pasts and jet us toward speculative futures, among the stars or deep into the earth, in flux and transformation.

Petra Kuppers Terrestrial Crip Drift Roosevelt 1: A group of people of different genders, racialized backgrounds, and body shapes are dancing at the side of the East River, on Roosevelt Island in NYC, tuning with the water, trees, the land, and the island’s histories of confinement, as part of the Terrestrial Crip Drift Project.

This event is preceded by a presentation by Kuppers on October 11 at EMPAC. Kuppers’s Troy engagement is a collaboration with EMPAC and iEAR Presents! and is made possible in part by New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Governor and the New York State Legislature. Co-sponsored with Deep Listening/ ISATMA (Assistive Technologies for Music and Art Symposium) Conference; the Independent Living Center of the Hudson Valley; NATURE Lab/ People’s Health Sanctuary. 

Petra Kuppers 21: Petra Kuppers, a white queer disabled cis woman of size with yellow glasses, shaved head, pink lipstick and a black dotted top, smiles up to the sky, arms outstretched, embracing the world. Her mobility scooter’s handlebar is visible at the bottom of the image. She is in front of a multicolored wall: purple, pink, yellow and orange.

Petra Kuppers (she/her) is a disability culture activist and a community performance artist. Petra grounds herself in disability culture methods, and uses somatics, performance, and speculative writing to engage audiences toward more socially just and enjoyable futures. Her latest academic study is Eco Soma: Pain and Joy in Speculative Performance Encounters (University of Minnesota Press, 2022, open access). Her third performance poetry collection, Gut Botany (Wayne State University Press, 2020), was named one of the top ten US poetry books of 2020 by the New York Public Library, and won the 2022 Creative Book Award by the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment. In 2022, she was named a Dance/USA Fellow, and in 2023, she won a Guggenheim Fellowship. Petra is Artistic Director of The Olimpias, an international disability culture collective, and she co-creates Turtle Disco, a somatic writing studio, with Stephanie Heit. She is the Anita Gonzalez Collegiate Professor of Performance Studies and Disability Culture at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Transcription of Radio interview:

Sina Basila Hickey: Petra Kuppers is a disability culture activist and a community performance artist who is coming to Troy for two events. First, she will give an artist lecture at EMPAC on October 11, and then on October 12, she will come to the Sanctuary to connect with the community. Petra Kuppers joins me now. Welcome to Hudson Mohawk Magazine.

Petra Kuppers: Thank you so much for having me, Sina. It’s lovely to be here and lovely to have you pronounce my name in a real German way. I adore that. I take all kinds of pronunciations of my names, but this is lovely to hear.

Sina Basila Hickey: Wonderful. It’s so great to talk to you. That one sentence barely does you justice. So, could you please introduce yourself to our listeners?

Petra Kuppers: Yes. Hello there. So, I am a German person who lives right now in Michigan on Three Fires Confederacy land in a little rust belt town called Ypsilanti. And I am indeed a disability culture activist and I am a community performance artist. These are my two core identities. So I work with other people in the disability community. I myself am disabled. I’m also a CIS, queer, White woman, and I love bringing people together to create art, and I’m very much looking forward to doing that in Troy next week.

Sina Basila Hickey: You have a pretty full schedule starting at EMPAC and then two events at the Sanctuary. What can we expect? And, what are you thinking will take place in Troy? Let’s begin with what’s taking place on Wednesday at EMPAC.

Petra Kuppers: Lovely. So, on Wednesday at EMPAC, I will be sharing with people the first cut— the early cut, it’s not quite finished— the first cut of the Crip/Mad Archive Dances. This is a project I’ve been engaged in since 2021. It started with a residency at the New York Public Library in the dance archives there, and I was looking for disabled presences, disabled and mad presences in the archive. I’m not really a historian, though, so I’m in the stacks for a little bit and finding material. But then I go outside and I invite my fellow disabled friends, dancers and choreographers to join me outside the archive, to engage in these embodied transmissions. I’m bringing out gestures and we dance these together. And I hope to do something very similar to that on Wednesday in Troy as well. I will be sharing with you community media clips from people who identify as disabled and or as mad and in which they share through movement something about their experiences, and we will take these in and think together about what it means to engage in embody transmission.

Sina Basila Hickey: The idea of sharing experiences through movements, do you see dance as a form of communication?

Petra Kuppers: I do see dance as a form of communication, and I also see dance as a form of sharing energy and agency. So that’s for me, a very important aspect here is that we’re moving away from the kind of memoir narrative of this is what happened to me. This is my story. This is how I came from beginning, middle, end, and, of course, most of these conditions that we have do not have an end. We’re living our lives as we move through. We’re improvising and shifting our way through our lives. So, dance for me is a very beautiful metaphor and a beautiful concrete, material way of thinking about the agency of disabled people.

Sina Basila Hickey: And then on Thursday, you’ll be coming to the Sanctuary as part of the NEA, Our Town Sanctuary Eco Art Trail project. How does the wheelchair procession along the Sanctuary Eco Art Trail, followed by the Dream Performance and Workshop, connect us to land and its histories and futures and support the Eco Art Trail’s goal of connecting living Indigenous legacy with striving for more environmentally just futures?

Petra Kuppers: Thank you. So, yeah, I’m very excited about this part of my visit because it is a complete improvisation. I have not been to this space yet. I’m a visitor. I am the visitor who will ask for permission to enter this land and to be in engagement with this land. I am someone who flies in and flies out, and I come. And I like to offer, if I am invited, the invitation to explore with me what it means to be on this land as Indigenous people, as settler people, our different histories, our different connections to industry, to brownfield sites, to urban development, to, all the aspects that likely are part of this trail. So if you come to join, us, you will find yourself part of a procession that stops and engages in seven minute dances, short seven minute dances where people can move just with their hands or just with their eyebrows or even just incite themselves. So it’s not like you have to now go out and fully dance and pirouette through the street. Very few people will be listening right now are, probably likely to do that. But if you want to, you’re welcome to. But most of us, I imagine, will be just sensing away on the street, sensing through the asphalt, sensing through the gravel, sensing down into the Earth and gaining a sense of what might have been there. And we’ll call on the knowledge that is in the street with us at that point. I do not hold that knowledge. I have to ask local people as knowledge carriers to share that knowledge with me in improvisation.

Sina Basila Hickey: So on Thursday, there will be the Eco Art Trail Wheelchair Procession, then a community meal, and then the Dream Workshop Performance. And this is developed from your Starship Somatics classes, a modality you developed during the lockdown of COVID. You write that “Starship Somatics engage our bodymindspirits as portals, as trance-mobiles that honor pasts and jet us towards speculative futures among the stars or deep in the Earth, in flux and transformation.” What else can you tell us about Starship Somatics?

Petra Kuppers: Lovely. Thank you. Yeah, this is one of these, my description of Starship Somatic is a little bit nebulous, but I hope it works. So we started this in March 2020, so just as the pandemic began, everything shut down, right? None of us could go anywhere, and, I really thought about, well, how can I create a Somatic modality that is accessible to all people, that is accessible to people who are disabled, who have painful bodies, who, are painful body, mind, spirits, who cannot just go out and have a run in the neighborhood? What else can we do to keep our tissues engaged creatively? And how can we use this screen as a way of doing that? So I started to run these sessions, which are usually about just under an hour long, and it’s a dream journey, take people on a journey. And when I do this, particularly in 2020, when we were in the lockdown phase of it all, usually half of the screens in front of me, half of the zoom screens, had people who were in their tiny little apartments in Brooklyn or what have you, like really small, and they were dancing full out from the bed to their know. I could see them just, like, reaching across the Zoom square. And the other half, of the zoom squares showed people resting very peacefully and just going on this deep internal journey. No outward dancing visible at all. I could just see these deeply relaxed faces, these deeply relaxed, human, beautiful bodies lying there. And then at the end of the session, when we come out, we usually create a little communal poem, in which people share a little glimpse of what they’ve done and where they’ve been. And I get to see and I get to hear that they’ve been on amazing planets. When I take people on a journey, I don’t tell them what the planets look like. It’s your imagination that furnishes where we’re going. So these little glimpses of poetry are the only way that tells me about the intense experiences people have, and they’re delicious and beautiful and remind us again and again of the deep creativity that we all hold and that we can activate them through internal and external movement practices. And that’s what Starship Somatics is about. We’re journeying into the Earth, we’re journeying into the stars. But really what we’re doing is we’re journeying with our bodymindspirits imaginations.

Sina Basila Hickey: That’s wonderful. You wrote on your website that your love of movement is pushing against the established definitions of what dancers can be. So can you talk about what these established definitions of dance are and how you are pushing against that?

Petra Kuppers: So established definitions of dance are not, really that established anyway, right? Because dance is always shifting. Dance is always something different. But I imagine many of the people who are listening to us right now have an idea in their mind of when you say dance. It could be that they’re imagining, a beautiful, rich African dance practice that’s really grounding us into the Earth. It could be that you’re imagining right now, a European ballet practice of people, like, flying off into space in beautiful linear ways. So these are some of the imaginations that people hold when they think about dance. I think very few of us think about dance as just this creative, tender shifting of bodies, minds, together, just being engaged creatively in the fact that we have a body. That is, for me, one of the core aspects of dancing. That we are, in various ways, spiritually, physically, energetically engaged in enjoying, moving and being creative with the fact that we are material beings on this material world. So that somewhat minimal definition of dance is what I mentioned. Activating that very base, material sense of enjoyment, agency and creativity.

Sina Basila Hickey: Petra Kuppers we’re very excited to welcome you to Troy to EMPAC on Wednesday, October 11, and to the Sanctuary on Thursday, October 12. Would you like to leave our listeners with anything?

Petra Kuppers: Yes. So, dear listener, for, a second, just feel your feet or your sits bones on the ground just as you’re listening right now. And feel your shoulders dropping down into your hands if you’re sitting. And just take, a breath and feel the roots extending down from your sit bone from, whatever it is that’s touching the surfaces closest to Earth right now. And I invite you to listen to the rhythm of the environment that you are in. What are the rhythm and the pulses that come to you? I’m sitting here in a McDonald’s in Madison, Wisconsin, because, this is where I find internet. And so I am listening right now to the pulses and the rhythms of the kitchen, the radio station cars driving by our doors. And I just invite you to enjoy whatever symphony you are in right now. Invite you to think of it as a symphony, as a, musical event, as an event that can move your bodymindspirit, Thank you, and I hope to see some of you on Wednesday and Thursday.

Sina Basila Hickey: Thank you so much.

3361 6th Ave
Troy, 12180 United States
View Venue Website

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