Alan’s dance work is focused on the development of movement vocabulary which emanates from a physically disabled body to express beauty, power, and autonomy. In doing so, he explores new movement which is only possible because of physical disability. He aims to directly challenge the representation of physical disability as symbolizing weakness, confinement and despair. Instead, he works to expand our cultural notions of beauty, power and autonomy to include physical disability.
Since 2001, Alan has collaborated with many dance artists to create and perform dynamic, thought-provoking performances. He has frequently performed improv with Shara Weaver, an independent dance artist based in Ottawa, appearing with her at the Bijou Jazz Club, the Avante-Garde Bar, Carleton University, Ottawa City Hall, and the Congress Centre. Alan and Shara have also toured to Burlington, Vermont to perform at the First Night Festival where they had live musical accompaniment by soloist Ken Easton. Alan has also worked with Toronto dance artists Kazumi Tsuruoka and Frank Hull. They have appeared at Art With Attitude – an annual event of disability arts and culture hosted by the disability studies department at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada. Alan, Kazumi and Frank created and performed a structured improv piece entitled Three Men Exploring in 2002. This work explored masculinity in terms of touch, relationship to self, and relationship to one another while searching for connectedness, intimacy and meaning. In 2006 they were invited to create a piece which examined the themes of boundaries and belongings through the lived experience of disability. The result was a piece entitled Three Men Being which was presented at Buddies in Bad Times theatre in Toronto. Alan's newest work is a full-length integrated dance piece entitled View Finder.
Alan has studied Structured Improvisation and Contact Improvisation since 1995. He has taken numerous movement workshops with Peter Ryan from prima materia, and has studied with Naomi Sparrow, with Alexis Andrews, Elizabeth MacKinnon and Ken Emig, and with Dante Vantresca Theater of Inclusion. Additionally, Alan has taken clowning and physical comedy training with the Toronto Theatre Alliance.
View Finder is an integrated dance piece choreographed and performed by Propeller Dance co-founders Alan Shain, Renata Soutter and Shara Weaver. The set was created by visual artist Kenneth Emig and is a series of five sculptured mirrors. This piece examines the theme of perception – both self-perception and the ways we perceive others around us. Three dancers move in and out of joy to find stability and to celebrate the strength of relationship. This poignant work broadens our perceptions of strength and power to include the disabled body and shares the beauty created by bodies which move innately differently from one another. View Finder was first workshopped in Ottawa in November 2007, premiered as a full production in 2008 and has since been invited to perform abroad.
"The dance performance was very unique and unexpected... I really liked the integration of the body movements with the wheelchair. The facial expressions were very touching and loving - an air of celebration and caring - the touching and confidence in each other was fabulous. Much trust and respect was shown. A very different perspective of what a wheelchair is and isn't - my heart was touched throughout by the bonding and interrelationships. The fluidity and strength was apparent on many different levels." - Audience member
"You broke down some of the invisible boundaries that can exist between able-bodied and disabled people." - Audience member
“Very dynamic. Lots of variation in movement, sensitivities, atmosphere. Loved the ending.” - Audience member
“I’ve never seen a dance piece which relied so strongly and powerfully on the eye contact between the dancers – breath taking; I was moved, elated, excited and in awe of your strength and elegance.”
In 2002, Alan co-founded DanceAbility with Shara Weaver. DanceAbility operated as an outreach program of The School of Dance and served disabled people within the Ottawa region for several years. Within DanceAbility, Alan and Shara developed a dance program that was accessible to people with a variety of disabilities and that gave disabled people an opportunity to explore dance and movement on an ongoing basis. Alan’s experience in disability activism and community development greatly assisted in bringing new community groups into dance workshops and dance performance. Between 2002 and 2003, Alan
co-facilitated DanceAbility weekly workshops, along with outreach sessions with Shara Weaver. Since 2004 Alan has played an advisory role to the running of the DanceAbility program.
Due to the overwhelming interest and demand for dance and disability workshops, and for accessible dance training within Ottawa, Alan and Shara, along with dance artist Renata Soutter, recently founded and incorporated a non-profit organization under the name of Propeller Dance. Propeller Dance is an integrated dance company dedicated to providing inclusive and accessible dance training and performance opportunities to people with and without disabilities.