The Institute on Disabilities at Temple University received a project grant of $345,348, including $57,560 in general operating support, from the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. The support will be used to present the world premiere of Rhythm Bath, a suite of immersive and enduring dance performance-installations by choreographer Susan Marshall and set designer Mimi Lien. Produced by the Institute on Disabilities, the project builds on Marshall’s more than 30 years of renowned dance work and draws on her experience as a parent to her neurodiverse, art-loving adult son and a member of a community of individuals, families and neurodiverse advocates. Rhythm Bath will premiere at the 2023 Philadelphia Fringe Festival at Christ Church Neighborhood House.
“The Institute is delighted to partner with acclaimed artists Susan Marshall and Mimi Lien to present this important work,” notes Lisa Sonneborn, Director, Media Arts and Culture, Institute on Persons with Disabilities. “We are deeply grateful to the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage for the opportunity to bring accessible, boundary-pushing performances to audiences in Philadelphia and beyond.”
Rhythm Bath combines performance, adventure and reflection, inviting art-loving audiences with and without disabilities to come together and enjoy art, in an environment where there is no “right” way to be a ” good” public. The project will explore issues of audience invitation and exclusion, with the aim of creating a level playing field where a certain way of being in or controlling one’s body is not preconceived.
“This work is an extension of the Institute’s social justice mission and of Susan Marshall’s advocacy as an artist and parent,” said Sally Gould-Taylor, PhD, executive director of the Institute on Disabilities.
James Earl Davis, PhD, acting dean of the College of Education and Human Development at Temple University, where the Disabilities Institute is located, is excited about the upcoming program. “Through this unique vehicle of contemporary performance, Rhythm Bath reflects the Institute’s and College’s shared interest in agency and interdependence.”
Professional dancers will perform in and through three fixed installations and among the public who will be able to move around the spaces. Current ideas include an environment built from the top down in white fabric, with a soft puffy ceiling; a dark space in which the public can interact with and animate sculptural elements; and wheelchairs for sitting and moving around, to increase audience comfort without dictating a specific viewing area or perspective. A large dance ensemble will move through changing rhythms and patterns; solos and duets also appear and reappear in different areas. The dance does not need to be watched sequentially; the performance-installations will be repeated over several hours, during which the public will be able to come and go.
“With Rhythm Bath, I invite audiences to come together and enjoy performance in an environment where there is no ‘right’ way to be and where you can come as you are to share an artistic experience with the others”, notes Susan Marshall. “Our creative team hopes to create a level playing field in which a certain way of being in or controlling one’s body is not privileged.”
Rhythm Bath is developed in conversation and collaboration with those who identify as neurodiverse. Artists and producers use the term “neurodiverse” to primarily describe people with disabilities that affect motor control and vocalization, including autism, apraxia, Parkinson’s disease, Tourette’s syndrome, and a range of mental disorders. development. With these people in mind, Rhythm Bath examines long-established and outdated norms of audience engagement in contemporary performance, and aims to imagine new, more inclusive ways to experience art. It is designed to be welcoming and accessible – not just suitable for – neurodiverse and neurotypical communities.
Susan Marshall: Susan Marshall is a choreographer known for employing modest means for resonant effect. His movement vocabularies, which often include everyday gestures, are distilled to near-abstraction and finely calibrated into evolving structures. Freedom within constraints and humor are constants in Marshall’s work and process. Her dance company has performed nationally and internationally since 1985 and her work is featured in the repertoire of leading dance companies. Marshall’s focus has recently expanded to creating art experiences that prioritize access for the neurodiverse community. A parent of a neurodiverse art-loving adult son and a member of a community of neurodiverse individuals, families, and advocates, she aims to design complex contemporary art experiences that are welcoming to neurodiverse and neurotypical audiences. Marshall also develops dance classes for neurodiverse people to experience self-expression, agency, freedom and community. Marshall has received MacArthur and Guggenheim fellowships, and three “Bessie” awards, among others. Marshall is a professor and director of dance at Princeton University. www.studiosusanmarshall.org
Mimi Lien: Mimi Lien is a Brooklyn-based set/environment designer for theatre, dance and opera. Coming to scenography after training in architecture, her work often focuses on the interaction between audience/environment and object/performer. In 2015, she was named MacArthur Fellow, the first set designer to achieve this distinction. Selected works include Natasha, Pierre and The Great Comet of 1812 (Broadway, TONY Award, Lortel Award, 2013 Hewes Design Award), John (Signature Theatre, 2016 Hewes Design Award), Appropriate (Mark Taper Forum, LA Drama Critics Circle Award ), Preludes, The Oldest Boy (Lincoln Center), An Octoroon (Soho Rep/TFANA, Drama Desk and Lortel nominations), Black Mountain Songs (BAM Next Wave). His scenographies were exhibited at the Prague Quadrennial in 2011 and 2015, and his sculptures were presented in the exhibition LANDSCAPES OF QUARANTINE, at the Storefront for Art and Architecture. His creations for theatre, dance and opera have been seen across the United States in venues including Lincoln Center Theatre, Signature Theatre, Playwright’s Horizons, Public Theatre, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Joyce Theatre, the Goodman Theatre, the Soho Rep and internationally. Perm Opera and Ballet Theater (Russia), Intradans (Netherlands), National Theater (Taiwan), among many others. Mimi Lien holds a BA in Architecture from Yale University (1997) and an MFA in Scenography from New York University (2003).
She is a member of the Pig Iron Theater Company and co-founder of the JACK performance space.
Institute on Disabilities, Temple University, College of Education and Human Development: The Institute on Disabilities at Temple University is one of sixty-seven academic centers of excellence for education, research and service in developmental disabilities funded by the Administration on Developmental Disabilities, US Department of Health and Human Services.
Established in 1974, the Institute has reflected changes in the field of developmental disabilities, moving towards a model of self-determination and individualized support in the community.
Now located within Temple University’s College of Education and Human Development, the Institute is a vibrant and diverse organization with over 40 staff, including students and is considered a national leader in leadership development, assistive technology, disability studies, justice for the people. disabilities, policy analysis and inclusive education.
Much of our success in reaching the community and our constituents can be attributed to our close partnerships with statewide advocacy and self-advocacy groups, Centers for Independent Living, the Council of Pennsylvania Developmental Disabilities, Disability Rights Pennsylvania, state government, specialty and generic service providers, the criminal justice system, and Pennsylvania universities.
The scope of work and dedication to our constituents continues to grow, reaching more people with disabilities, families, communities, students, educators, employers and policy makers. Our more than 20 programs impact the lives of people throughout Pennsylvania, nationally and internationally.