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."
the other creators
"My name is Leila Awadallah and I am a Palestinian-American dance artist based in the Twin Cities. To dedicate so much of my life to dancing has led me to explore how healing it can be to find joy and breath in rhythms, to take in and embody stories, to channel energy and fly / fall with momentum! Dance also has allowed me the space to explore deeper sorrows living in my body & community; to allow space for anger, rage and frustration to physicalize and redirect into different creative channels. A Cripple’s Dance is an honor to be apart of for the reason that it activates all of this. All of us have a deep relationship with our spines that hold within them the story of our lives, but each of our stories are very different. To hold Gabe’s journey and embody his path, accompanied by the musical score he has also beautifully crafted has made this one of the most meaningful dance projects I have worked on."
“My name is Emma and I am full of gratitude for being involved in this project. I love collaborating in projects where there is an emphasis on getting to know each other and building relationships, because then the work feels honest, intimate, and real. You can feel the connection that the performers have cultivated and it changes the energy of the room. I love dance for that reason too because you have the opportunity to get to know another layer of a person thru a different mode of listening and seeing. Our rehearsals for a cripples dance have been a lot of that. Exchanging stories, connecting physically, discovering difference and similarities, tuning into each other. It’s all part of the work and there’s gotta be more of that in our lives and communities.”
Laura Osterhaus grew up in a tiny town in Eastern Iowa and moved to the big city of Minneapolis to pursue a degree in dance and fashion studies from the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities just six short years ago. Since relocating, Laura has found a community in the arts that spreads deeper and wider than she could’ve ever imagined. Laura currently dances for Zenon Dance Company, has recently started her own project, Slo Dance Company, and has the pleasure of being one third of Kelvin Wailey. The latter dance trio co-creates and performs work in non-traditional spaces. Being asked to collaborate on this project with Gabriel and Angie was such an honor for Kelvin Wailey and has been an incredible chance to grow as movers, makers and humans.
Angelique is an actor, dancer and yoga teacher. She has been performing on the stage for most of her life. In 2000, she co-founding an LA based theater company called Toxic Shock Stage. They had a good run. Perhaps you’ve heard of them? No? Didn’t think so. Never mind then, Minneapolis beckoned anyways. In 2012, a trapeze accident paralyzed and landed her in a wheelchair, which is when she had the great fortune to discover the world of integrative dance. She is grateful to have performed with Young Dance, choreographer Maria Tierney, in Jerome Bell’s Gala, as well as with Revolution Dance in Tampa, Florida. Angelique met Gabriel in 2015 through Get Up Stand Up and then much later they found themselves performing at some of the same events, most recently in 2017’s Not My President’s Day at The Red Stag. She has seen Emma, Leila and Laura dance and is a huge fan and is very excited to get to work this amazing group of talented individuals.
“I met Gabe last year when one of my bands, 26 BATS!, shared a bill with his group, Treading North. Shortly after they took the stage I felt the goosebumps arise and immediately connected with the raw emotional honesty teeming from his voice. I sensed that to him, creating and performing music was a therapeutic process; like a form of alchemy, transforming pain and hardships into healing sounds and creating a sense of community. So needless to say I was honored when he asked me to play guitar in “A Cripple’s Dance” because I approach music in the same manner. There is a profound power and ability to heal when creating art with intention.”
“I'm Bailey 26 Cogan, I am playing keyboards for A Cripple's Dance performance. I met Gabe after a 26 BATS! show at Seward Cafe and I remember him telling me my music made him feel like a ton of bats were flying around in his stomach. Later that week, I think, he booked 26 BATS! to play at a Treading North show. For the show promo we did an interview and he asked me very important and thoughtful questions that made me realize how like-minded he was as an artist and a person. We talked about the importance of using our voices to say things that matter and things that can inspire change. I am very excited to be a part of this performance because making intentional healing, inspiring and emotionally evocative art with my friends feels powerful. It gives me purpose. I feel grateful and honored that Gabe asked me to be a part of this performance.”
Warren Thomas Fenzi
Warren Thomas Fenzi grew up in the outskirts of Prescott, located in the northern region of Arizona. From a very young age, his parents instilled in him the love for music and creativity. On occasion, his mother would literally not let him back inside the house until sundown, forcing him to be creative and make the most of his surroundings. Warren is a multi-instrumentalist who is a core member of the Minneapolis based collective, Kremblems. He plays drums and percussion in Lucid VanGuard, 26 BATS!, Christian Wheeler and His Band, as well as song writes and plays guitar for his own group (under his own name). “When Gabe had reached out to me about being part of this project, I was immediately interested. He invited me over to check out the tracks that would be part of the performances, and I was immediately into it. Really cool ideas, sounds and songwriting. Gabe has been really cool in making it clear that he wants our creative input as artists, and that speaks volumes. I'm really looking forward to how this project turns out and I have a feeling that a lot of other people will really enjoy it too.”
“I was introduced to Gabriel in June 2013 through a mutual friend I met at Perpich Arts HS, where I had just graduated from. I connected with him and his music right away, and felt lucky to have the opportunity to play with him in his band Treading North and other projects. Over the years he has influenced me in countless ways and continues to inspire me to have an open mind and grow as a person.
Looking back right now, the most satisfying moments and experiences for me when it comes to music almost always include Gabriel. Everything from writing songs together to sharing the stage with our friends and family, it’s all made me want even more to dedicate my life to writing and performing music. I can already tell that A Cripple’s Dance will be one of the most unique experiences yet, and I’m honored to be a part of it.”
“My name is Jeremiah Soup and I am a painter, illustrator, and maker.
In this project I will be painting live, or more specifically finishing a painting live. When Gabriel asked me to be apart of this I knew immediately what I wanted to do, but also that if I wanted to do it to the level I envisioned, then I wouldn’t be able to do it all live. For this reason I spent time drawing influence from both the music and dance rehearsals in order to set myself up to finish the painting at a satisfactory level during the final performance. Since music and dance practice separately, this has turned into a pretty unique experience for me, to plan and compose a painting from different moments and environments while reserving certain parts to pull together when everyone is united. Hearing the musicians practice allowed me to reflect some of their energy into the painting while pushing forward over all themes of a weaving of community, strength, support, and a continuing. While doing gestural studies of the dance one thing I noticed was how repeated shapes of pillars and triangles kept showing up. I realized studies of bodies combined with chair and wheel led me to a triangle, the strongest shape, while the rest of the dancers kept leading me to pillar shapes, a supporting structure. After getting to know Gabriel more during this process I can say he is made of the strongest shapes and I am proud to join as a supporting piece of A Cripple’s Dance.”