‘You can always find a connection’: an interview with Sonja Parmentier

By Disability Arts International on May 7, 2020

A female dancer in a wheelchair wears a bright red top contrasting on a black background.
© Joris-Jan Bos Photography

In the most recent DanceAble, Holland Dance Festival invited dancer, teacher and choreographer Sonja Parmentier to deliver a series of masterclasses in which she focused on finding connections between dancers.

Text: Sonja Parmentier / Laura Cornelisse. First published in Dutch by Holland Dance Festival.

Can you introduce yourself?

Sonja Parmentier was 4 years old when she first started dreaming of becoming a dancer. She began her training at Codarts Rotterdam and then went to work as a professional dancer, teacher and choreographer. Then life happened and her body went through a period of change:

“Now the wheelchair has been a good friend for years and I am still active as a dancer, teacher and choreographer, but now with wheels. A lot has changed, but not my love for dance. My drive is mainly that dance should be accessible for everyone. I really want to show people that dance is for everyone. I think it is very important to work with disabled dancers to give them more “tools” with which they can develop their practice, but also to dare to go to dance lessons and to dare to take thresholds literally and figuratively.”

Can you share with us your experience of DanceAble, an initiative of Holland Dance Festival?

“My first contact with DanceAble was my participation in the Mixed Doubles in collaboration with Scapino Ballet Rotterdam during DanceAble # 1 in 2015. After that I remained involved in the Holland Dance Festival in various ways, including giving workshops. I think that the DanceAble project, whichever part of it you look at, is important for inclusive dance in the Netherlands.”

This season you will give two masterclasses under the title Masterclass Connection I and Masterclass Connection II. What is the relationship between both masterclasses? And can you tell us something about the content of the master class that will take place on February 9?

“Connection is a keyword in dance for me. You encounter it every time, whether it is connection with your body, with others, with music or with space. There is always a connection with something or someone. This is no ‘different’ within inclusive dance. In this case, a wheelchair gives it an extra dimension.

The masterclasses have been an excellent opportunity to work with dancers with wheels in their field and to support them in discovering their bodies and dance possibilities. It was good to get feedback that they enjoyed focusing on their specific dance techniques and the connection between their body and the chair.

During Connection II the focus will mainly be on connecting with others. How does “dancing together” work when there is a third player in the game, the chair. A field of tension for dancers without a wheelchair, together with dancers with a wheelchair. How do you investigate? Where are the challenges? Hopefully we can also find a number of solutions together.

Barriers to dancing can be lowered by gaining experience, connection, self-confidence and fun with each other. Then it becomes natural within dance to get moving together.”

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