Barak adé Soleil is not ashamed of his body. For much of his early career, as a dancer in New York, he strove to be faster and more svelte, adapting to others’ ideas of the perfect form. That changed after Soleil discovered he had a disability, one that began to affect his agility after he moved back to his hometown of Chicago in 2012. (Soleil won’t reveal details of his condition, but it clearly hinders him physically.) Now, in his mid-40s and living in Hyde Park, he places his disability on center stage as a performer, using floor work, crutches, and wall-assisted movement. “I’m an experimentalist,” says Soleil, “which means oftentimes what I’m doing looks like failure.”
This month, Soleil premieres Triptych: Cycle, a suite of dances that deconstruct the notion of the able body. “When I’m [performing] on crutches, you have to take the time to notice how my body is functioning, not how it’s broken,” he says.
“Some of it is dance, some of it is strength and endurance,” says the Evanston Art Center’s Keith Brown, who tapped Soleil to perform. “In one cycle, he pulls heavy objects with ropes and pulleys. In another, he drags his wheelchair up the stairs. It will surprise you.”
That Soleil is dancing at the Evanston Art Center is not insignificant. For much of its existence, the North Shore institution was inaccessible to disabled people. That changed when the center moved to its current home this spring. “Our bodies all have the potential to become limited in some way,” says Soleil. “My work speaks to the truth of our humanity.”
GO Soleil performs Triptych: Cycle on November 8 at the Evanston Art Center, 1717 Central St. Free. evanstonartcenter.org