Science and technology makes life better for everyone, but we can also find joy and happiness in less concrete things. People with disabilities can enjoy music, dance, theatre and other performing arts just as much as the abled community, both as audience and performers.
In Malaysia, local arts practitioners with disabilities include wheelchair dancer Chung Hong Tsin and blind musicians Alfred Ho and Colin Ng. The theatre scene is also catching up with productions such as Hutan Kenangan, with physically disabled performers, and THEM (The Human Exhibit: Mental Health), a performance tackling mental health issues. Another famous example is the China Disabled People’s Performing Art Troupe. In 2004, their deaf dancers performed a Thousand-hand Guanyin dance during the closing of the Athens Paralympic Games.
Benefits of the arts
Simply being an audience member at a music recital or art show can bring joy, inspiration and validation, especially when seeing performers with shared disabilities or stories about fellow people with disabilities.
For PWD, taking part in music and performance arts can provide:
- regular physical and/or mental exercise from rehearsals and practice
- training in physical skills, thinking skills, self-discipline as they practice moving their bodies, memorising performances, and making regular effort.
- an avenue to express, process and regulate emotions
- a source of self-confidence, happiness and motivation as they improve their skills and see people’s reactions to their work
- social support through community, mentors and friends through relationships made in the process of learning and using their skills.
Where to go
- Gardens Theatre in KL offers wheelchair-friendly seating.
- KLPAC provides wheelchair-friendly seats and disabled parking spaces.
- PJ Live Arts offers half price tickets for PWD patrons and 1 companion (selected performances). They have wheelchair-accessible seats and restrooms, provide escorts for physically-challenged patrons, and welcome service animals.
- Twenty20Two is an accessible event and performance space in Petaling Jaya. They currently offer weekly physical theatre workshops.
- Beautiful Gate Performing Arts Troupe was one of our first local performing art troupes. It was launched in 2003 to increase accessibility and provide more opportunities to PWD.
- Dua Space Dance Theatre is Malaysia’s first professional contemporary dance company. They collaborated with Shuang Fu Disabled Independent Living Association on a performance involving disabled and abled dancers in 2006.
- The Shuang Fu Performing Arts Troupe promotes fine art appreciation, wheelchair dancing, music and cultural performances for PWD.
- MYC (Music for Young Children) Malaysia provides music training to children aged 2-12. Their program was designed by an early childhood specialist with qualifications in learning disabilities.
Disability shouldn’t stand in the way of an interest in the arts, whether you’re in the audience or up there performing. The arts are there for everyone to experience new things, share and tell stories, and celebrate one of the great things that makes us human.