The last act of the 2008 Sins Invalid performance opened with a dark stage backlit with dusk-blue. To the sound of a pulsing Maori keening chant with techno highlights, wheelchair dancer Rodney Bell slowly lowered down onto the stage via cables. Sometimes dangling upside down, sometimes appearing to somersault, Bell, a T3-6 para, gyrated along the way. He slapped his chest and thighs — warlike gestures punctuated with grunts — and when he finally had all four wheels on the ground, his face, painted with traditional tattoos, appeared to the audience. The dance, sensual and aggressive, might have been a holy ritual.
“In the opening piece I’m portrayed as being crucified and get carried up into the air off the stage,” says Bell, 39. “So in the last piece I come down. Inside I felt like one of the Maori weather gods, descending down from being crucified, and also coming back empowered as a person with a disability, with my full sexuality and sensuality intact.”
Although Bell participates in Sins Invalid performances, his day job is as a professional dancer with AXIS Dance, a physicall