“I’m delighted and honoured to become a Work Place artist, for the space, time and opportunities this will allow me to develop a relationship with The Place and the community of artists, students, producers and audiences I see all interconnected there. I’m excited by the possibilities for rich conversations to be had, spaces to be shared and that this opportunity presents to me at a point in my career as a maker where I recognize my practice has shifted and my modes of research and learning have changed. From historically inward looking, private creation methods to gradually becoming more in need of examining ways of relating to others, of pushing out of my silos of comfort and safe community into how we connect with others, with different communities and how we might work both into and beyond theatrical spaces.”
Claire Cunningham is a performer and creator of multi-disciplinary performance based in Glasgow, Scotland and a current Factory Artist with Tanzhaus Düsseldorf, Germany. One of the UK’s most acclaimed and internationally renowned disabled artists, Cunningham’s work is often rooted in the study and use/misuse of her crutches and the exploration of the potential of her own specific physicality with a conscious rejection of traditional dance techniques (developed for non-disabled bodies). This runs alongside a deep interest in the lived experience of disability and its implications not only as a choreographer but also in terms of societal notions of knowledge, value, connection and interdependence. A self-identifying disabled artist, Cunningham’s work combines multiple art forms and ranges from the intimate solo show ME (Mobile/Evolution) (2009), to the large ensemble work 12 made for Candoco Dance Company. In 2014 she created a new solo: Give Me a Reason to Live, inspired by the work of Dutch medieval painter Hieronymus Bosch and the role of beggars/cripples in his work, and the full length show Guide Gods, looking at the perspectives of the major Faith traditions towards the issue of disability. In 2017 Claire premiered The Way You Look (at me) Tonight, a duet with Jess Curtis which continues to tour across the globe.
She is a former Artist-in–Residence at the Women of the World Festival at the Southbank, London and of the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queens. In 2016 she was Artist in Residence with Perth International Arts Festival, Australia and Associate Artist at Tramway, Glasgow.
The Way You Look (at me) Tonight
The Way You Look (at me) Tonight is a social sculpture-a sensory journey, for two performers and audience. Developed in collaboration with noted author and philosopher of perception Dr. Alva Noë, leading UK disabled artist Claire Cunningham and international choreographer and performer Jess Curtis dance, sing, tell stories and ask questions combining performance, original music, and video to wrestle (sometimes literally) with important questions about our habits and practices of perceiving each other and the world.
★★★★ “Smart, sensitive and sometimes sensual… well worth seeing” The Times
“Open, tactile, dynamic, strong, gentle. Mobile. Moving.” A Younger Theatre
“their tender togetherness an affirmation of looking beyond appearances and seeing another person for who they really are” The Herald
The Way You Look (at me) Tonight has been made possible by support from the following funders and organisations:
Unlimited; celebrating the work of disabled artists, using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, Arts Council of Wales, Creative Scotland and Spirit of 2012, co-commissioned by Tramway Glasgow and supported by The Place London, Tanzfabrik Berlin, Norfolk & Norwich Festival and British Council.
The New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project, funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with additional support from The Kenneth Rainin Foundation, The San Francisco Arts Commission, The Zellerbach Family Foundation, The San Francisco Grants for the ArtsArts Commission, The Zellerbach Family Foundation San Fransisco Grants for the Arts.
Fonds Darstellende Künste, Kofinanzierungsfonds des Regierenden Bürgermeisters von Berlin - Senatskanzlei Kulturelle Angelegenheiten.
Give Me a Reason to Live
In a starkly beautiful work of transcendence and trial, Claire delves into the work of medieval painter Hieronymous Bosch, to explore religion, religious art, and the judgment of souls and bodies.
Through tests of both body and faith, Give Me a Reason to Live draws upon imagery of disabled people in Bosch’s apocalyptic paintings to question our present perspectives on “otherness” and “difference”.
Powerfully physical, visually striking, and set to a mesmerising score, Give Me a Reason to Live invites us to consider our own empathy, sympathy or indifference, in a work of both generosity and brutal immediacy.
★★★★ “devastatingly powerful, unsettling and moving... as emotionally expressive and communicative as only the best dance can be.... The impression is that you have seen something unique and extraordinary, and afterwards you are left with an unsettling sense that your own attitudes have been challenged – and hopefully reset.” Salford News
★★★★ “Give Me a Reason to Live is a quietly intelligent work that manages to be both devastating and full of joy.” Bachtrack
★★★★★ “There is so much heart and intellect, courage and integrity here: Cunningham pushes boundaries not just for disability rights, but for us all” The Herald
Give Me a Reason to Live was been created through B Project, an artist-development initiative which invites European choreographers to research and create new dances inspired by Bosch. B Project is one component of the Bosch 500 Foundation's major celebration of the visionary painter and his work.
Project Partners :Jheronimus Bosch 500 Foundation (NL), Comune di Bassano del Grappa (IT), Dance Umbrella London (UK), La Briqueterie/CDC du Val de Marne (FR), D.ID Dance Identity (AT). Associated partners: Festival CEMENT (NL), Dansateliers Rotterdam (NL)
Additional support: The Work Room (Glasgow), Dance House (Glasgow) and //Buzzcut//.
Claire is disabled.
Is it the will of a higher power?
Is she paying for the mistakes of a past life?
Is it a test for her, or a punishment for her parents?
Could she, should she, be healed?
Is she welcomed by all faiths or will it all prove just too inaccessible?
Using dance, live music, humour and interviews with religious leaders, academics and deaf and disabled people, Claire goes on a perilous quest to explore how the major world faiths view deafness and disability in this witty and illuminating show.
In 2018 Claire released the Guide Gods Digital Collection, a series of podcast's curated by artist Jak Soroka featuring interviews with Claire about the themes raised in Guide Gods as well as audio from interviews Claire conducted during her research for the piece.
“To place a show exploring faith's attitude towards disability in a festival of disability arts was a brave move but that bravery paid off... If the world's political and religious leaders saw Guide Gods I wonder if we might move a little closer to world peace?” The Huffington Post
★★★★★ “it's Cunningham's words and actions that burrow into your thoughts [and] unnerve your preconceptions” The Herald
★★★★ “Cunningham is such a magnificent artist… [a] unique and completely beautiful show” The Scotsman
A co-production with the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queens and Southbank Centre.
Supported by Creative Scotland and The Work Room. Guide Gods was commissioned as part of the Glasgow 2014 cultural programme.
Beyond The Breakwater
So here I will build. On crutches. Something. Something for you. For me. Something alive or dead. A memorial or a blueprint. Natural or unnatural. A beginning or an end. Or something in between. Depends how you look at it…
Beyond the Breakwater was originally created for The Tale by Bristol based contemporary art organisation Situations. The Tale was a unique arts trail, around the coast of Torbay – from the streets of Torquay, through hidden coves & historic harbours of Brixham, to the quarry of Berry Head Nature Reserve. Along the way audiences encountered performances and installations from internationally acclaimed artists all inspired by the text of Phillip Hoare.
Beyond the Breakwater was inspired by the environment of Breakwater Beach: at the edge between natural and manmade environments, the point where things get wilder; a terrain which imposes Claire’s unique way of perceiving the world as a crutch user, on all who walk on it: slowly, with eyes drawn to the ground and with careful attention.
Claire uses crutches that were due to be scrapped to build a sculpture on the beach, creating a choreography around its construction, a homage to/questioning of ideas of labour -in a town built around and sustained by the fishing industry- and interactions with the natural environment.
12 (2012) for Candoco Dance Company
Ménage à Trois (2012)