Originally a classically trained singer, Claire Cunningham worked for 6 years in musical theatre, before developing an interest in aerial work and dance in 2005 (largely as a result of work with Blue Eyed Soul Dance Co. and US choreographer Jess Curtis). The granting of a Creative Scotland Award in 2006 enabled Cunningham to investigate and develop a new movement vocabulary, specific and unique to her own physicality and virtuosity.
US performance artist Bill Shannon (currently appearing in the television ads for Visa), mentored Cunningham in his ground-breaking Shannon Technique: a distinctive dance form integrating the creative and functional use of crutches. This experience prompted her to start creating and choreographing her own work and as a result her career has grown exponentially.
From being invited to join Jess Curtis’ company Gravity, in the award-winning show Under the Radar, to being asked to give a demonstration of her unique dance vocabulary to Peter Brook and his company, her reputation as a highly individual multi-disciplinary performer has grown dramatically and earned her awards such as the DaDa (Disability and Deaf Arts) Award for Performance Arts in 2008. Her own work has succeeded in crossing boundaries to engage both ‘mainstream’ and disabled audiences, (and dance and ‘non-dance’ audiences) while also provoking debate around issues of aesthetics and traditional notions of what dance is.
Her debut work, Evolution, premiered at the Dublin Fringe Festival in 2007, (earning her a nomination for Best Female Performer) and documents her discovery and journey into dance. It has been invited to a number of international festivals including the Potsdamer Tanztage, and the Royal Opera House Firsts season in 2008. Her second work, mobile, was commissioned by DaDaFest International ’08- the UK’s largest disability arts festival, and was then selected as part of the Scottish/Irish Dance Exchange by the Scottish Arts Council, Dance Base and Culture Ireland to represent the top Scottish dance artists at the Dublin Fringe Festival in 2008.
Her research and training has included studies with Candoco Dance Co (with Nigel Charnock and Hofesh Shechter), Mary Prestidge, Sara Shelton-Mann and Wendy Houston. In 2009 she was awarded a Bursary for Dance Development from the Scottish Arts Council to further her performing and production skills, and was selected to be part of Made in Scotland, the high-profile showcase for promoting the work of Scottish artists and companies in the 2009 Edinburgh Fringe Festival.