28 June 2021

Celebrate the Aesthetics of Difference when Collaborating with Persons with Disabilities in the Arts

Veterans in the arts and disability sector highlight this among other key considerations in a panel discussion

15 social enterprise teams from around the globe will be advancing through to the next phase of the SIF’s Young Social Entrepreneurs (YSE) programme. SIF Chairman Ambassador Ong Keng Yong (top) said that the YSE digital platform offers new opportunities to nurture the energy, innovative spirit, and passion of young changemakers driven by a strong sense of social purpose.

The arts have the power to uplift lives and foster stronger social cohesion between different groups of society. However, as artists work with vulnerable communities such as persons with disabilities, what are some of the ethical considerations at play?

These were explored by four veterans in the arts and disability sector:

  • Ms Grace Lee-Khoo (Founder and Creative Development Director, Access Path Productions and Arts for Good (A4G) 2019 Fellow)
  • Mr Michael Cheng (Applied Drama Practitioner and Educator and A4G2017 Fellow)
  • Ms Jaspreet Kaur (Dancer, Diverse Abilities Dance Collective (DADC)
  • Mr Subastian Tan (Dance Artist, Maya Dance Theatre/ Programme Leader, DADC)

Titled “Ethics in collaboration across diverse abilities”, over 60 viewers tuned in to the livestream panel discussion on 12 June 2021 on Maya Dance Theatre’s (MDT) Facebook page.

Moderated by the Singapore International Foundation, the panel dove in to discuss consent, boundaries, and safe spaces for expression while working with persons with disabilities and took questions from viewers.

One of the questions raised was on the issue of “othering”, a social phenomenon in which some people – or group of people – are labelled as not part of a social group and marginalised, and how one can avoid othering.

In response, Ms Grace Lee-Khoo expressed that the arts community’s paradigm should shift away from othering. “We want to celebrate the aesthetics of difference.  It is okay to be different, it is actually exciting and empowering to be different instead of conforming to the mainstream.” 

This was supported by Minister of State for the Ministry of Community, Culture and Youth Mr Alvin Tan, who said in a pre-recorded video opening for the livestream, that diversity is intrinsic to the Singaporean identity. He said: “We are people from different cultures and backgrounds, each contributing and adding to the Singapore tapestry as a whole, through our respective strengths, talents and perspectives.”

The panel discussion was a prelude to SeeDs, a series of four dance performances by the DADC, formed in 2018 by MDT. The DADC helps people with disabilities to co-create works that tell their stories, with professionals. Choreographed by Antonio Vargas, Shaun Lim, Subastian Tan, Eva Tey and Jaspreet Kaur, the group worked with four dancers from the DADC to put up the performances which were streamed on-demand from 17 to 19 June 2021.

Watch the full panel discussion here.