IETM’s new publication on Arts and Disability

IETM, international network for contemporary performing arts, launches the 7th issue of its Fresh Perspectives publication series 'Permission to Stare', which explores the complex nature of how disability is defined in contemporary dance.
The publication offers a theoretical essay locating disability in the arts, and a collection of personal letters, presenting complementary approaches to this topic.

Something remarkable is happening in Europe: an increasing number of leading arts organisations host and support the work of disabled artists, and they do so not for moral reasons or legal obligations, but because they realise that the current generation of disabled artists is making some of the most exciting, provocative and boundary-breaking work in Europe.

Disability is a contested concept, and refers to a manifold phenomenon. 'Permission to Stare' explores exactly how this complexity is dealt with in the performing arts field, in particular in contemporary dance. Overall, 'Permission to Stare' provides an overview of the variety of questions and possible approaches to performing arts and disability, and refuses to provide clear answers, rather hoping to trigger the interest of readers new to the topic and to enrich the views of those already informed or involved.

‘Permission to Stare' is curated by Kate Marsh and Jonathan Burrows, two artist-researchers based in the UK. The publication is published by IETM, in partnership with the British Council and their Disability Arts International platform. Marsh and Burrows, have chosen to limit their curatorial work in order to leave as much space as possible to the voice of artists themselves. A number of outstanding disabled artists have accepted to share their views and experiences, through open letters and through online contributions.

With the invaluable support of the British Council, IETM has started the discussion around arts and disability by including a specific session in its autumn plenary meeting 2016 in Valencia (‘Other abilities, evolving aesthetics?’) and makes concrete efforts to provide the best conditions for disabled performing arts professionals willing to participate in IETM’s activities and to join the network. This Fresh Perspectives issue serves as a next step into the exploration of the complex discussion surrounding arts and disability.

The publication is available for free download and, like most of the Fresh Perspectives issues, it is available in formats compatible with different e-reading devices, as well as in an online accessible format for readers with visual impairments.


Kate Marsh is a dance artist and researcher. She was a performer and teacher with Candoco dance company from 1999 – 2004 and continues to work with the company as an associate artist. She has created a duet, ‘Famuli’, with dancer Welly O’Brien which is currently touring in the UK. In 2016 Marsh completed her PhD in Dance, Disability and Leadership. She currently works as a research assistant in C-DaRE, the Centre for Dance Research at Coventry University.

Jonathan Burrows danced with the Royal Ballet in London for 13 years, before pursuing his own performance work. His main focus now is an ongoing body of pieces with the composer Matteo Fargion, with whom he continues to perform around the world. He is a visiting member of faculty at P.A.R.T.S. Brussels and has also been Guest Professor at universities in Berlin, Gent, Giessen, Hamburg and London. His book ‘A Choreographer’s Handbook’ has sold over 10,000 copies since its publication in 2010.

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. It creates international opportunities for people of the UK and other countries and builds trust between them worldwide. It works in over 100 countries in the arts, education and English.

IETM is a network of over 500 performing arts organisations and individual members working in the contemporary performing arts worldwide: theatre, dance, circus, interdisciplinary live art forms, new media. IETM advocates for the value of the arts and culture in a changing world and empowers performing arts professionals through access to international connections, knowledge and a dynamic forum for exchange.

Disability Arts International is a website and digital newsletter from the British Council, which promotes increased access to the arts for disabled people as audiences and world-class artists. Its newsletter goes out every 6-8 weeks and includes short films and written features on exciting initiatives and breath-taking artists, best practice on accessibility, plus news, funding and opportunities.