By Guest Blogger Jerron Herman, Professional Dancer and Writer
I grew up with a desire to be an artist; I also grew up having cerebral palsy, often complicating that dream because no one was like me succeeding as one. There was writer and painter Christy Brown, but he was dead! I remember a well-meaning high school friend questioning my desire to be on Broadway, even in light of my freshly printed acceptance letter from New York University. They said they just didn’t see me actually being onstage. It’s a common story that we can point to as the reason people with disabilities ought to be more out there, but that narrow perception isn’t the problem because people with disabilities are gaining tangible ground in being visible. Our next step as a culture is to open up the spectrum of “disability” so no one undermines it. The best positive portrayal of a person with a disability, then, is the truest portrayal. This has become evident over the last four years with my job as a principal dancer for one of the leading physically integrated dance companies in the world, Heidi Latsky Dance (HLD).
In my time with HLD I’ve been profiled, interviewed, reviewed, and applauded for my work in the company. I was at first very shocked by all the attention, but then realized our society needs to be introduced to dynamic images of people with disabilities. Within the growing industry of dance and disability there is a tendency to only show the rock ‘em/sock ‘em rigor of an intense wheelchair dance or a drastic feat of athleticism from an amputee while leaving out the quiet parts, or it’s a totally sentimental piece without edge. To make dance and disability legitimate within the dance world we must showcase the breadth of it and not rest on either side. At HLD we attempt to show ferocity and rigor, but also vulnerability. When a person walks away from our work we want them to expand their understanding of beauty; we ultimately want them to see humanity.