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Stéphanie Morin-Robert dances through fear of being a 'freak'

10/20/2014 08:05 EDT | Updated 12/20/2014 05:59 EST
Montreal choreographer and storyteller Stéphanie Morin-Robert has gone from believing her disability made her a freak, to believing it gives her a superpower. 

Me, Myself & Eye is a dance/storytelling performance inspired by Morin-Robert’s own life. When she was two years old, she was treated for retinoblastoma, a cancer for which the cure is to remove the eyeball.

As a result, Morin-Robert grew up with a glass eye leaving her with no peripheral vision on her left side.

When she transferred to a new school in Grade 3, she became self-conscious about her glass eye. 

"For the first few weeks, I wore sunglasses all the time and pretended I had sensitive eyes to fluorescent lights. I didn't want them to mark me as a freak," she said. 

She was encouraged by her medical team to take up dance.

"I started to dance as a tool to regain awareness of the left side of my body, to gain coordination and confidence," she told CBC News.

Now dance is Morin-Robert's passion, her lifestyle and her full-time work.

She completed a Bachelor of Arts at Concordia University specializing in dance and now runs her own dance company, Body and Light.

She is performing her solo show this week at Festival Phénomena, a bilingual festival of emerging performance art.

Learning to laugh

"I’ve turned a handicap into a superpower," said Morin-Robert.

She's learned to develop a good sense of humour about her disability. She chuckled at how she played tricks on replacement teachers by taking her eye out in class. 

"I would pretend it would fall out and the replacement teacher would have no idea of my history so it would scare them to death. They’d put it in a Ziploc bag and send me home because it was awkward to them," she recounted.

Morin-Robert’s show, Me, Myself & Eye, combines dance with storytelling and a message of hope; a lesson in letting go of the things we think define us. She says that has been very liberating for her and she hopes audience members will understand and embrace that in their own lives.  

Morin-Robert first performed Me, Myself & Eye at Mainline Theatre last January. She’s reworked the performance for Phénomena by adding more dance to the show.

Morin-Robert will perform on Oct. 23 at 8 p.m. at Sala Rossa.

The third edition of Phénomena takes place at several Montreal venues through Oct. 24.

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