Conversations with Dystonia is a trio between classical dancer Suzie Birchwood, an aerial artist and a contemporary dancer. The piece explores Suzie’s tempestuous relationship with her condition.

Tranquil, delicate phases of movement are interrupted by frenzied, ungovernable protests manipulating Suzie’s movements into extraordinary positions with a fierce energy. Dystonia is a little known condition although not rare with at least 70,000 people in the UK affected. Dystonia affects the motor pathways in the brain that control recruitment and movement of muscles causing unwanted spasms with sustained abnormal postures or repetitive movements. Suzie’s dystonia is generalised, affecting all of the muscles in her body predominantly on the right side. It is very well controlled by botulin toxin injections every 3 months but Suzie is unable to walk or bear a significant amount of weight because of the severe effect the dystonia has on her lower body.

Luminous innocence and facinating emotional transparency

This piece demonstrates the starkly contrasting movement dynamic that dystonia presents. Two male performers partner Suzie, the aerial artist presenting a tangible expression of the dystonia while the male dancer fuses the vocabulary of a non-disabled dancer and that of a disabled dancer. The highly emotive story arc is performed on a set that can support diverse movement, providing props, struts, angles, and support suitable for counterbalancing and points around which dancers can pivot.