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Moving Forward

Internationally renowned choreographer and dancer Marc Brew needs little introduction to dance aficionados. He has worked with, among many others, the Australian Ballet School, Infinity Dance NY, and CandoCo, and presented work at the Bejing Olympics and Paralympic Games in 2008. Having founded Marc Brew Company in 2001, he makes work which is challenging, endlessly inventive, and beautiful. His newest production, “An Accident / A Life” sees him team up with another dance great, the Belgian dancer, choreographer and director Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. This piece examines, in part, the devastating car crash in South Africa which left Brew paraplegic and killed the three other passengers—Brew's girlfriend, her brother and their friend. But as with so much of Brew's work, this is but one component of the piece. I caught up with Brew to find out more details.

Marc Brew Company and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui's “An Accident / A Life.” Photograph by Filip Van Roe Eastman

What can the audience expect from “An Accident /A Life?” 

It is a very immersive theatrical experience taking the audience on a powerful journey through the use of storytelling, film, music, dance and a car. Both Larbi and myself wanted to look in the difficult places to bring out new artwork. By exposing vulnerability it opens up true exchanges. With the wisdom of the age and distance I have now it is possible to play with my own story and go in and out. Not all of the piece is autobiographical and we wanted it to challenge people’s assumptions; people have assumptions of who you are, how your bodies behave, so there must be a story. Having space in the piece to do that is exciting. 

How has it been collaborating with Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui?

It's been a wonderful, challenging and exhilarating experience collaborating with Larbi. He has pushed me to unfamiliar places and guided me with care and respect to delve deep into my physicality and emotional being to share my lived experience. We first met over Zoom (during the pandemic) and our starting point was sharing life stories and key moments of change. For me, this was this car accident, where I went from ballet dancer to paraplegic in a split second.  

How we related to each other’s experiences led us to storytelling. As a creator not really used to narrative, Larbi’s expertise really helped me in storytelling and exploring different options and possibilities. 

We then had the opportunity to build on movement material and ideas generated during an initial residency between hosted by Tanzplattform Rhein-Main, a project of Hessisches Staatsballett and Künstlerhaus Mousonturm in December 2021, that allowed us time to come together, build a relationship and see where it would go. 

Since then the work has developed and grown so much beyond my own expectations through various residencies at the Work Room, Cumbernauld Theatre, Tramway, Théâtre National de Bretagne, Cultuurhuis de Warande and Holland Dance Festival where it premiered on February 2nd.

“An Accident / A Life” by Marc Brew Company and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. Photograph by Susan Hay

representation on stage? And do you think it's all about box ticking, rather than putting leading disabled figures front and centre?

As a disabled artist working in the arts for the last 26 years I believe things have improved but there are still gatekeepers preventing disabled artists to be given leadership roles that will make an impact for the future generation of disabled artists. For me, it's important that we have role models and that our art represents the society we live in. Disabled artists and other under represented minority groups should be centre front on our stages but there is still box ticking and no action. Representation matters. As an example I have had young disabled people who have seen me perform and afterwards have told me “I didn't think it was possible for me to be a dancer but now that I have seen you, I know I its possible.” 

Your work is so emotionally articulate. Has making this piece been particularly cathartic for you?

Over the years I have shared my story but I never thought I would ever make a work about that day my life changed in a blink of an eye as a result of a car accident. I honestly didn't think my story was worthy enough and it wasn't until meeting Larbi and our encounters of sharing our stories that this part of my life came to the forefront of our exploration and the journey began. There have definitely been moments when I have been caught unexpectedly with a wave of emotion and I have needed to pause and take a breath. It has also been cathartic to share and give space and time to these moments in my life that have had an impact on me. I have always looked forward since the day of the crash and tried to make the most of my life but not just for me but for Joanne, Simon and Toby who didn't make it that day. To honour those who are no longer with us and keeping them alive through talking about them.

“An Accident/A Life” has its UK premiere at Tramway, Glasgow on March 22-23, before various locations throughout May 2024. For more information and tickets, head to:

Lorna Irvine

Based in Glasgow, Lorna was delightfully corrupted by the work of Michael Clark in her early teens, and has never looked back. Passionate about dance, music, and theatre she writes regularly for the List, Across the Arts and Exeunt. She also wrote on dance, drama and whatever particular obsession she had that week for the Shimmy, the Skinny and TLG and has contributed to Mslexia, TYCI and the Vile Blog.



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