Amber DiPietra, performance artist and disability rights advocate, presented her interdisciplinary poetry to an audience in Rice Family Pavilion, where she showed students the power of expression in the disabled community. Introduced by Dr. Aggawal, professor of English, DiPietra danced to a recording of her poem “The Opposite of Evolution Dance Studio.”
The event was co-organized by Burrow Press, a nonprofit and independent publisher of Orlando, and promoted by Rollins’ English Department.
“This is my first solo show. It’s a big pivot. It’s allowing me to be a lot freer in some ways and a lot more terrified in some ways too,” said DiPietra.
DiPietra debuted her piece at the Tampa Fringe Arts Festival in 2018, and since then, she has embraced her Internet name, “The Body Poetik.”
During the event on Mar. 9, she explained the struggles that she has as a disabled person and the freedom she endures through live and participatory art.
Performing in a bathing suit, DiPietra danced around the room as the audience listened to a meditation focused on water and its power to heal. The poetic soundscape was coupled with a painting by artist Sunaura Taylor, which depicted DiPietra alongside a manatee.
Raised in Florida, DiPietra explained how the mammal is not only unique to the Sunshine State but to her, too.
“They’re sort of vulnerable, with their slow movingness,” DiPietra said. “The world progresses without them, so they’re endangered.”
There are parallels between the animal and her own life. She described the need for warm water and how it can eliminate the pain she has felt as a disabled child.
“The swimming pool is a physical freedom of pain for me,” DiPietra said.
A few audience members joined the interpretive dance by mimicking DiPietra’s movements and sitting with her on the floor. After leading the audience in movement, DiPietra explained how meaningful it is to have her viewers participate.
“It’s a leap of faith; I don’t know if an audience volunteer will get up there every time,” she said.
During the performance, DiPietra invited an audience member to a massage table in the room where she performed therapeutic movements on the volunteer.
“I am also a body worker,” she said. “The most passion, joy, and freedom I felt was by being touched as a child through massage.”
Her performance was followed by an interview and Q & A session with Sabrina Dalla Valle, an award-winning experimental writer and professor at Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Fla. During this segment, DiPietra shared her life experiences with the audience and how they relate to her art.
DiPietra completed her schooling at the Institute of Advanced Studies in Human Sexuality in San Francisco, which has become the cradle for the disability rights movement.
“Disability is a social performance, and I’ve been performing my whole life,” she said. “I was not always dancing, though, as a disabled child because I was in a lot of pain.”
The disability rights movement encouraged her to find creativity and freedom through dance, intimacy, and poetry. She currently offers one-on-one work and classes in Saint Petersburg, Fla., where she currently resides.
When asked if she feels more “normal” when dancing, DiPietra answered with a laugh, “I’m in a bathing suit trying to roll on the floor when it’s not even comfortable to sit up.”
The artist is also a certified sexological bodyworker through the Institute of Advanced Studies in Human Sexuality in San Francisco. Now a co-founder of the Disability and Sexuality Access Network (DASAN), she hopes to expand sensory awareness and teach communities that are marginalized by body and disability issues.
“I wanted to be a mover off the page, too,” DiPietra said.
To find out more about DiPietra and her work, you can visit her website at http://www.thebodypoetik.com/.