”To break rules, you have to have rules” — a chat with Dan Daw
A brief chat with Dan Daw, co-creator of "The Dan Daw Show” (coming to Trafó on the 28th and 29th of September). Nominated for the 2021 National Dance Awards, the piece provides a glimpse into the complex interplay of living with shame while simultaneously brimming with pride. Through the lens of disability and kink, Dan explores themes of empowerment, reclamation, and the power of self-inspiration in a compelling and evocative performance. Join us as he shares details about his journey and the impact of this work.
Trafó: How would you summarize The Dan Daw Show in your own words?
Dan Daw: The piece is about my relationship with my disability and kink, and how those two aspects intersect. By acknowledging the push-pull of the coexistence of labels—being disabled, being crip, and being kinky, we use a sub-dom relationship as a way to talk about how we can better care for each other in the world, addressing our needs and my desire as a disabled person to live in the world feeling as free in my body as I can.
Initially, I thought I wanted to make a piece about how I inspired others, but as we went further down the rabbit hole, I realised it needed to be a piece where I inspired myself. So it's about those moments in life when I feel most free, and most myself – these, for me, are when I'm on stage, and when I'm fucking.
Trafó: In the show’s long list of trigger warnings, “sexy disabled people” seems to stand out.
DD: That’s a very tongue-in-cheek thing! Disabled people are sexy.
Trafó: Is there an aspect that you feel is often overlooked?
DD: We always try to emphasise that it's about joy, first and foremost – and that kink is beautiful actually: more about care than about whips and chains.
Trafó: In a former interview, Mark Maughan, your director said “kink is about asking for what you need and not being ashamed of that” (The Guardian, 2021). Can you explain how the dynamics of dominance and submission work within the context of your performance?
DD: The foundation of kink is care – and offers different ways for people to be with each other. I’ve tried dom, and I’m not a dom at all. I very much prefer being in that sub headspace. While one might assume that dominance offers more freedom and control, in this kind of play, the power predominantly rests with the sub. The sub dictates what happens and what doesn't. We decide when something’s too much or not enough, we have the final say about how things go down. By having a lot of discussion about what I’m okay with and what I’m not okay with, the dom (Christopher Owen in the show) has a palette that he can then play with and find moments when he can take me by surprise in a way that I’ve consented to.
Trafó: The more solid the framework, the more room there is to play.
DD: Exactly. To break rules, you have to have rules.
Trafó: Can you explain the significance of referring to yourself as crip?
DD: Crip is a reclamation of the word cripple, which has mostly been used as a slur. We’re taking back the power from those who use it against us by using it as a positive affirmation. We’re proud that we’re crip, we’re proud of our bodies, we embrace the cripness. In reclaiming the term, it no longer has the power to hurt us.
Trafó: You mentioned in past interviews that it took you years to really embrace and connect with your body. Can you tell us about this journey?
DD: Drama school was a very confusing time. I was interested in the rejection of my body and wanted to explore my body more and find out why it’s being rejected – and I did. The lecturers essentially didn’t know what to do with me. I wasn’t getting the rigorous training I was promised because they were almost scared of my body in a way… and because they were scared of my body, I became scared of my body. I was made to feel like it was wrong, and couldn’t be worked with. I can’t remember feeling that way about my body in high school, so it feels right to pinpoint drama school as the place I fell out of love with my body. It took years to undo the pain and trauma that had been instilled in me during that period of my life. And, as cheesy as it sounds, it wasn’t until I left drama school and followed the path of dancing that I was able to reconnect with my body.
Trafó: How has the audience's reaction differed from your expectations on the show’s tour so far?
DD: The amazing thing with this piece of work is that it’s resonated with the audience everywhere we’ve been. It’s been quite powerful to witness actually. I always knew it would strike a chord with disabled people of course, and with queer people for sure, but it was very unexpected to see how much women resonated with the work. Many women have approached me after the show, expressing gratitude for making them realise the importance of taking up as much space as possible in the world.
Trafó: Lastly, is there a book or a film you’d recommend for our readers?
DD: When I was making the show, I read a lot of books on crip theory. One that stands out is "Exile and Pride" by Eli Clare. It's a beautiful book that delves into the crip body's relationship with the world, desire, and what we want from the world. It’s what spurred me on to make the piece essentially. It’s an academic text, but in story form, based on experience, so it’s quite an easy read.
Trafó: Thanks Dan. We can’t wait to have you at Trafó!
DD: It’ll be good to be back – I’ve been to Budapest once before. And I’ll actually be celebrating my 40th birthday while I’m there this time. It’s gonna be really special.
Catch The Dan Daw Show at Trafó on the 28th or 29th of September, 2023.
>>> For tickets and/or more information, click here.