A Cripple's Dance
A story and Project by Gabriel Rodreick
Photography and marketing by trista marie photography
A Cripple’s Dance is a music and dance performance expressing Gabriel Rodreick’s desire to move, dance, and reconnect with his body post spinal cord injury.
"A Cripple's Dance" premieres at the Cedar Cultural Center on Sunday December 16th. It’s funded by the Artist Initiative Grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board. To create the pieces in the performance, Gabriel has collaborated with dancers from Ananya Dance and Zenon Dance, musicians from 26 Bats!, and a friend who also has a spinal cord injury but still does a lot of dance.
Pictured: Gabriel Rodreick with dancers Leila Awadallah, Emma Marlar, and Laura Osterhaus
Gabriel: The story, the music, the dance
"On July 6th 2008, at 15 years old, I broke my C5 vertebrae in a freak diving accident. I lost the ability to move and feel the majority of my body. I can no longer play the piano like I used to, I can’t move and dance in the ways that I would like, even singing (my main instrument now) is a struggle to do with a weak diaphragm, very little abdominal control, scoliosis, and kyphotic posture.
“A Cripple’s Dance” has become a way to tell the story of my injured spine, and all that comes along with it. Through music, dance, and words, we’ll be telling the story of a longing for deeper breath. The story of care and support, and the involvement of letting/pushing the person who needs care to take risks and face the dangers of life. The story of anger and how it can be used to unearth yourself from oppressive structures. The story of balancing a need for solitude and community. The story of accepting life as it is while simultaneously accepting that you can long and desire for more out of this life. This is the story of a Cripple who wants to Dance.
"There is no feeling in the world like sitting down at a 100-year old stand up grand piano. Placing your fingers delicately upon the smooth beat up keys, and giving up your pain and sorrow to the sounds that burst through the aged mahogany. Pressing and weaving your fingers through a dancing community of black and white, I could sit for hours without a sheet of music or a memorized song, and let my heart beat through my fingers. I lost the ability to do this in 2008. The absence of the piano in my life left a looming silence in my life. I was lost. Three years later I made my way back to music.
When I found it again I was able to put all my anger, sadness and grief into something positive that provokes growth. I dropped out of MCTC and started a project called Treading North. We played together for about 5 years before going on an undetermined hiatus. After parting ways I began to realize that I’d been stewing in a sort of grief stew since my injury and “A Cripple’s Dance” is shaping up to be the project where all that emotional work pays off. Don’t get me wrong, I love my music as it is, but nothing will ever compare to sitting down at a piano."
"This project has been my first exploration into collaborative dance.
Working with Kelvin Wailey, Angelique Lele, and Jeremiah Soup has been a revelational experience. Their creative processes are so deep and expansive, it’s challenged me to look at my own work more intensely.
I’ve learned that dance has the ability to reach inside you and pull things out of you that you thought only existed in your mind. Trauma manifests in the body and dance can loosen that trauma.
Throughout this project, I’ve connected with my body and other people’s bodies more than I ever have since my injury. It’s been a very awkward process opening my body up to expressing myself through movement with a body that doesn’t move volitionally very much - but change is always uncomfortable. I’m leaving the river and being pushed into the sea, and I’ve never been more excited to share and build a creation."