Joel Brown, Paraplegic Dancer And Singer-Songwriter
A childhood accident wasn’t enough to stop American dancer and musician Joel Brown from taking the stage again. Brought to us by the team at Theater Art Life, this article tells the ongoing story of Joel’s life; career; and latest project, the dance duet 111.
Joel Brown is a paraplegic dancer and singer-songwriter. He has toured throughout the USA and internationally. Since August 2015, he has been a dancer with the UK-based Candoco Dance Company. He has also produced two solo albums and also composed music for the films A Person Falling (2013) and You (2015) by Graham Brown. In 2013, he was nominated for an Isadora Duncan Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Performance. And now, in the acclaimed duet 111, Joel Brown performs with former Scottish Ballet principal ballerina Eve Mutso.
111 is about power, physicality, and vulnerability. It is also about the dancers’ friendship, exploring the importance of emotional support in our lives.
This powerful dance piece explores interactions between the body and physical structures – our skeletons, wheelchairs. The set is a large scaffolding cage which is also integrated into the choreography.
111 premiered in October 2018 in Glasgow at the Unlimited Festival.
Dancing always played an essential role in Joel’s family. Joel’s father was a gymnast, his mother was a dancer, and all seven siblings were dancers as well.
But, at first, Joel didn’t care much for dancing. He was drawn more to sports like basketball.
Nevertheless, like all the other children in his family, he was sent to dance lessons throughout his entire childhood.
In 1998, when he was nine years old, Joel auditioned for the Utah Children’s Dance Theater and was accepted.
However, a month later, an unfortunate accident happened. Joel’s older brother crashed their car, packed with his siblings, on their way home from a sunny day together at the lake.
Joel’s resulting spinal cord injury put an end to both his dancing and the other sports he was practicing. At least temporarily.
The years went by, but then, while still in high school, Joel returned to dancing, pushed by his older brother by ten years Graham. Graham was a dance student at the University of Maryland at the time, and he created a duet for Joel and himself.
The online magazine Wellspect writes, “I’ve Had It Up To Here became their first project together. Exploring a new form of motion, dancing, and interaction, but also confronting the accident. Trying to come to terms with the fact that Graham was driving the car that day in 1998 when Joel was injured.”
“Graham wrote the text, and Joel did the original musical compositions. And the brothers have kept working together in different projects ever since.”
Today, Joel is an established professional dancer in the UK Candoco Dance Company.
Candoco produces contemporary dance for audiences and participants and wants to challenge and broaden the perceptions of art and ability.
Eva Mutso and Joel Brown are still touring with their duet 111, which has been received very well all over the world.
This month, in December 2022, you can see them at the NCPA in Mumbai, India.
The title of their show derives from Joel having 11 working vertebrae (out of 33), as well as his perception that it seems as if his incredibly flexible and beautiful dance partner Eva has 100, which would give them 111 vertebrae altogether.
Disability Arts Online wrote, in a glowing review from 2018, “Ultimately, 111 succeeds as a rumination on vulnerability and support with fecund physicality and a few choice words. All stage performers are vulnerable. Especially in shows where pieces of yourself are laid so bare. To help overcome that vulnerability we all need structures of support. Be it our spines, our wheelchairs, or other scaffolds in our lives.”
“But the most important support of all is the emotional support of friendship. A theme this show explores and exudes in abundance.”
At this point, we could not find any further tour dates for 2023 online.
However, 111 is bound to continue to make its way around the world again in the years to come, breaking boundaries, changing our perception, and building bridges as it does.
Instagram Joel Brown
This article was originally published on TheatreArtLife.com. Written by TheatreArtLife's Content Producer - Liam Klenk.