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. 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.
Claire is currently touring The Way You Look (at me) Tonight, a duet with Jess Curtis and is development a new ensemble work Thank You Very Much for 2019.
Photo by by Sven Hagolani
The Way You Look (At Me) Tonight
Photo by Julia Bauer
Give Me A Reason To Live
Photo by Ben Nienhuis
Give Me A Reason To Live
Photo by Eoin Carey
Photo by Sven Hagolani
Claire Cunningham in Jess Curtis/Gravity's "Dances For Non-fictional Bodies"
Promo for Claire Cunningham's Guide Gods.
Created for the Glasgow 2014 cultural programme
Co-commissioned by Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen's and Southbank Centre
Give Me a Reason to Live
Duration: 35 minutes approx
Number of people on road: 3
Freight: No freight necessary
In a starkly beautiful work of transcendence and struggle, 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.
This work can be performed in a black-box studio theatre or in a non-theatre or gallery space. The space must feature a corner and a back wall clear of any doors, windows, signage, plug sockets, heaters or other fittings and furniture. The corner area must feature 1.5m of clear wall space (as described above) on each side from the centre out. The walls which form this corner must be solid and bear Claire's weight.
A photograph of the corner area must be provided to the artist before a presentation can be confirmed.
The floor can be wooden or dance floor but not stone or concrete
Sound: The sound score can be played from a laptop which will travel with the company. A sound system or speakers must be provided which is compatible with a Mac for amplifying the sound.
The lighting will be created from in-house lighting and this must be provided by the presenter in theatre and non-theatre spaces.
The company will require a full day prior to the first performance for technical rehearsals. More tech info available on request.
The audience can be seated or promenade in front or to the sides of the performer.
Duration: 70 minutes
Number of people on road: 5 (including captioner)
Freight: Freight necessary
The production has a set which will need to be transported. All elements of the set and flooring fit into a high roof panel van or container (approx. 2.5m high/1.9m wide/3.5m long)
A compelling investigation into the attitudes of major world faiths towards disability. Told through song, text and dance by Claire Cunningham with live music by Derek Nisbet.
To accompany the work, we've released a series of podcasts and essays on Claire's website by Artist Jak Soroka. The Guide Gods Digital Collection explores Religion and Disability and features conversation between Jak and Claire and excerpts of interview material recorded during Claire's research for Guide Gods.
The production is designed for the audience to sit within the performing space.
The seating is limited to 48, which includes 28 seats (to be provided by the venue) and cushions on a carpeted floor (provided by the company). The production can be performed in non-theatre spaces and in studio theatre spaces. The minimum floor area required is 10m x 8m.
The piece integrates audio description and the captioning is displayed on television screens which are part of the set.
The audience is invited to join the performers for a cup of tea after the performance.
The Way You Look (at me) Tonight
Duration: Approx 1h30
Number of people on road: TBC Please contact email@example.com for details
TBC Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for details
The Way You Look (At Me) Tonight is a social sculpture—a sensory journey for two performers and audience. Dancing, singing, telling stories and asking questions, Claire Cunningham and Jess Curtis combine performance, original live music, and video to wrestle (sometimes literally) with important questions about our habits and practices of perceiving each other and the world.
The work is performed by leading UK disabled artist Claire Cunningham and international choreographer and performer Jess Curtis, who first introduced Cunningham to movement, in collaboration with Dr Alva Noë, a philosopher of perception at Berkeley.
The work is flexible and able to scale to a variety of performance spaces, Including large halls such as at the Southbank Centre, mid-scale traditional theatre/ black box theaters like CounterPulse and Uferstudios, with iterations also possible for Gallery, non-traditional, durational installation, classroom and site-specific settings.
Cunningham can offer masterclasses in movement (in a clean warm uncarpeted space with facility for playing sound from iPod), for disabled and non-disabled individuals (above age 16 and with some experience in movement).
She is also available for discussion events/post-show talks and presentations around her work or the themes within it, or relating to work as a disabled artist or integrated practice.
Press Comments & Testimonials
“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
“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 reviewing Give Me a Reason to Live
“There is so much heart and intellect, courage and integrity here: Cunningham pushes boundaries not just for disability rights, but for us all”
***** Herald reviewing Give Me a Reason to Live
“Cunningham is such a magnificent artist”
“This fearless, fierce and beautiful show... not many other artists in any discipline would put their lives on the line quite so frankly as Cunningham does... But then, not many people have the set of skills she has” ****
The Times reviewing Menage a Trois
“feisty, innovative, radical and witty... This is strong visionary work.... It's hugely, generously entertaining too... full of joy, optimism and sassy spirit”
The Herald reviewing ME (Mobile/Evolution)