A huge amount of my approach to theatre still comes from that time. From seeing and learning that, as humans, we are inherently interested in other humans. Everybody’s stories are interesting, if you give them space, and context. And I got a lot of basic theatre craft from being in that company. But I didn’t know I was learning, you know! And I got to work with the top theatre directors from Scotland at that time, who came and worked with the company.
GF: That was also the time in which dancers and performers with different physicalities started to become visible.
CC: Very possibly. But I was completely unaware of dance, I had no interest in it, whatsoever. I had seen a couple of shows with disabled dancers, and I thought: it’s great, but I’m a singer. But then, I was turning thirty and got this panic! The years were ticking by and I wasn’t nearly performing enough, so I got quite mercenary. I wanted to make myself more employable, to add skills to get more work, and hence I went to learn aerial dance. And then, maybe about 2001, I saw the company Victoria [now Campo], from Belgium. What I loved was that here they were performers – they were not an actor, nor a musician, nor a singer… they were all that! And that was the degree of comfort I wanted in front of an audience. The feeling that you could morph between whatever was the right mode for that very moment. So seeing work like that became really exciting. And what had begun mercenarily was starting to feed me more!
GF: When did your own work as a performer and choreographer start to become re-cognised?
CC: Not until 2007. Around 2003 I started to understand that I was constantly partnered with the crutches, which I had started using at age fourteen, and that they were actually always going to be here. And I was starting to work out how to deal with that. One of the things I acknowledged was that they had given me a lot of upper body strength, which I didn’t like, because I perceived it as not feminine. In 2004 I was hired for a piece of aerial dance, by choreographer Jess Curtis. It was with him, that things exploded outwards.
Before, I had only encountered medical perspectives and observations on my body, things it didn’t do. But through Contact Improvisation, through proprioception, I encountered ways of thinking, feeling, sensing my body, that I had never experienced before. And I became obsessed with movement. How it was me? How do I work with the crutches? How was that unique to the way that was me, and my own physicality? And I began to explore that more and more. And out of spending time exploring how I and the crutches could move, material began to develop. I thought I was a performer, and that was fine. But inevitably, by being left space and time to play, and curiosity, lots of things started to emerge. And I realised: I’m making something here! [Claire looks surprised]. By accident, I was creating!