A body script. We all have one. But what exactly is it?

As a theater artist, I see a script as a pattern. In the process of coming to understand each character as a person, I begin to understand how that character navigates the world. 

What I didn't know until recently is that our bodies follow a script, too. We all have a distinct pattern that informs the way we move. For people with physical disabilities, the pattern looks a little different. The challenges of people with physical disabilities can make navigating spaces difficult, and those movement patterns can be seen as hard—sometimes even impossible—to change.

But Tamar Rogoff and Gregg Mozgala have challenged that assumption. Gregg has a diagnosis of cerebral palsy, and his gait made activities like walking and climbing stairs challenging. After exploring his movement through the lens of body scripting, however, Tamar and Gregg discovered something pretty amazing—they could change his pattern. Now Gregg walks with less stiffness and can move more easily. The pair's process is explored in Enter the Faun, a film that chronicles the creation of the original dance piece Diagnosis of a Faun. In the piece, Gregg plays a mythological creature with the arms and head of a man and the legs and feet of a goat. The film will be screened at 7:30 pm on Monday, March 14, at the David Rubenstein Atrium as part of the ReelAbilities: NY Disabilities Film Festival. The evening event will include a showing of the film, a body scripting exercise, and a panel discussion with Gregg and Tamar, as well as others, on the intersection of dance, disability, and medicine.

Gregg and Tamar have begun teaching others in the dance and medical fields about how body scripting can help individuals with physical or mobility challenges. In a recent body scripting workshop at Abrons Arts Center, I learned about how a heightened awareness of my movements could help me move more freely. As a class, we improvised a short piece in pairs, and another dancer and I created an improvisational dance together. In body scripting, the dancer "zeroes in" on one location in the body—the space between the ribs, for example—and thinks about how that area moves. The dancer experiments with improvisation and might create a mental picture that helps her to imagine how to move next. As an actor with cerebral palsy myself, I was fascinated by a dance technique that allowed me to embrace the way I move rather than to put it aside.

Kimberly Barth is a graduate fellow in Accessibility Partnerships and Programs at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. She is also an MA candidate in the Program​ for Educational Theatre at New York University.