Alice Sheppard
A dancer balances in the air, resting on the footplate of another dancer's wheelchair. Both face each other with arms outstretched against the backdrop of a starry night.

Watching Alice Sheppard’s choreography - with the speed and grace of wheeled motion, the intimate and physics-testing interlocking of wheelchairs - feels mesmerizing and exceptional. And that’s exactly the point. Sheppard, as a dancer and choreographer, seeks to highlight the unique forms of physicality experienced in a wheelchair. She describes the importance of equitable experience in art for people with disabilities. This does not mean performing others’ choreography, adapted for the wheelchair. It means the creative process of choreographing for the person-wheelchair unit (remember the “body-plus”?). It means leveraging unique bodily experiences and exclusive forms of motion by and for people with disabilities.1

When asked about the place of her art in relation to mainstream dance, Sheppard states

An art form deserves its own place in the field... Art forms need to be supported rather than mainstreamed. The pressure on a disabled person is already to join the mainstream and erase the disability.

In this vein, Sheppard is uninterested in master narratives about disability. These are stories deeply embedded and shared throughout culture, which often pertain to showing strength or resilience in the face of disability. Sheppard instead creates an alternative narrative (“which at minimum differs from, and at maximum resists, a master narrative”), focusing on the pleasure of wheeled movement and experiencing unique forms of physicality.3 If the voice of master narratives whispered to you when watching Sheppard dance, attempt to disrupt them when you next view DESCENT. Think less of her choreography in relation to other forms of dance, and carve out a space for it as its own unique art form.

Alice Sheppard founded Kinetic Light, a disability arts ensemble that connects art, technology, design, and dance. She choreographed, directed, and performed DESCENT with other members of Kinetic Light. Watch a preview of DESCENT at Explore Alice Sheppard's work at and Kinetic Light at

For more on dance, see Jerron Herman, Bill Shannon, Erin Ball, and the AXIS Dance Company.

1 Sheppard, Alice. Interview by Laura Flanders. ”Alice Sheppard: Disability Arts As Movement”, The Laura Flanders Show, 16 May 2019,

2 Sheppard, Alice. Interview by Emmaly Wiederholt. ”Alice Sheppard: “I Want to Build a Network of Legacy”, Stance on Dance, 16 May 2019,

3 McLean, Kate & Syed, Moin. (2016). Personal, Master, and Alternative Narratives: An Integrative Framework for Understanding Identity Development in Context. Human Development. 58. 318-349. 10.1159/000445817.