Clark University alumnus and artist Donald Lee ’95 returned to campus on Feb. 3 to perform a stirring dance in Tilton Hall as part of the Higgins School of Humanities “Bodies” program.
At the outset of his performance, Lee, a bilateral amputee, assumed a meditative posture, seated in his wheelchair with his eyes closed and arms outstretched. He then slid from the chair onto the floor, spinning, gliding, and sliding while employing his chair as a sort of dance partner with whom he shared an instinctual bond. He would gently upend the chair to execute a series of spins atop a wheel, or rest a leg on the seat while he extended his body toward the audience. The wheelchair, he later told the audience, is an instrument “of transformation and elevation, not just movement.”
Lee performs with the New York-based Heidi Latsky Dance company, which incorporates performers with disabilities. Founder Heidi Latsky says her company’s mission is to “redefine beauty and virtuosity through performance and discourse, featuring individuals with unique attributes to bring rigorous, passionate, and provocative contemporary dance to diverse audiences.”
The Tilton event — titled “Interruptive Movements: Accessing Disruptive Bodies in Dance” — marked the debut of Lee’s newest work in progress. Following the performance, Lee departed the stage in his chair and, minutes later, strode back into the hall on prosthetic legs. Sharing the stage with Latsky, Lee talked about inclusivity in dance and the meaning and motivations of Disability Culture, which “values physical, sensory, and mental difference … and diversity in the body’s expressive tradition.”
Lee said he decided he wanted to attend Clark University when, as a high school student, he received a brochure depicting the University’s pea pod with multicolored peas. “Clark was ahead of its time when it came to inclusion,” he said. “That spoke to me. I wanted to come to this school.”
Lee, with members of the Clark community, continued the celebration of diverse expression the following day by creating a “live sculpture court” in Academic Commons.