Claire Cunningham is a multi-disciplinary performer and choreographer based in Glasgow. Originally a classically-trained singer, she began to work in dance in 2005, after working with US choreographer Jess Curtis, who kindled her interest in movement. This led to her pursuing her own training with various practitioners, including a mentorship with Bill Shannon (aka The Crutchmaster) and training in elements of his own Shannon technique. Over the following years she has developed her own movement vocabulary based on the use of crutches, with a resulting interest in realising her own choreographic ideas - often rooted in the use/misuse, study and distortion of crutches. Her work includes the critically acclaimed solo show ME (Mobile/Evolution)- combining dance, text, aerial and visual art, which continues to tour internationally following a successful run at the 2009 Edinburgh Festival Fringe which earned Cunningham a Herald Angel Award. In 2011 Cunningham was awarded an Arts Admin Bursary, and through the Unlimited Commissions for the Cultural Olympiad recently created '12', a large-scale group work for Candoco Dance Company under the mentorship of Gail Sneddon. Cunningham is also part of the National Theatre of Scotland's Auteur Development Programme.
Claire Cunningham's work is initially rooted in the use/misuse, study and distortion of crutches - Cunningham's metier. Through these objects she not only engages physically with the world, exploring the potentiality of her specific physicality as a disabled individual, crafting a unique vocabulary which aims to challenge conventions around virtuosity, classical aesthetic and dance, but are also her means to relate and connect to the world as an artist.
She aims within her work to find ever-increasing levels of honesty - both as a live performer and in the base material. It is often biographical, exploring deep personal questions but with wide-ranging and indeed universal resonances. She is interested in non-normative bodies and keen to highlight the enrichment to be gained in contemporary performance, especially dance, by embracing this. By extension she is also driven to make work that will attract those often disenfranchised from watching contemporary dance due to the conventional body aesthetics or because of the seeming abstractness of dance. Her interest in combining artforms stems from this intention.
Cunningham looks to make work that embraces multiple artforms holistically rather than in 'layers', with a belief in the idea of a 'rounded performer' rather than the divisions of dancer, actor, singer, etc. Her work has escalated in scale both physically and conceptually in recent years as she works to expand away from solo work with a drive to work more collaboratively. Overall she seeks to make work that is challenging, riddled with dark humour, but most importantly, entertaining.
Image by Sven Hagolani