Starship Somatics

Multiple people,  all masked, reaching and touching in alternative gravities,  in trance dances on different planets, eyes closed. In the background runs the Starship Somatics dancevideo. One person is getting ready to dance under a cozy blanket.

Multiple people,  all masked, reaching and touching in alternative gravities,  in trance dances on different planets, eyes closed. In the background runs the Starship Somatics dancevideo. One person is getting ready to dance under a cozy blanket.

Starship Somatics is a community dance modality Petra Kuppers developed during the early days of the COVID pandemic as part of the Turtle Disco programming, looking for a way to create online environments for accessible, disability-culture-focused somatic creative movement.

Starship Somatics Sessions engage our bodymindspirits as portals, as trance-mobiles that honor pasts and jet us toward speculative futures, among the stars, in flux and transformation. These classes use improvised movement (inner and outer movement, as is accessible and appropriate to you), dream journeys, sounding, writing, and drawing as our transportation devices: firmly grounded in the sensory immediacy of our beds, sofas, floors and windows, and flying wide to honor ways of being of all kinds. All welcome, grounded in disability culture values.

Petra published a short essay about the practice with the The Hopkins Review: Starship Somatics: Disability Walking in Outer Space (in TRAVERSALS: a folio on walking, eds. Christine Hume & Anna Maria Hong, The Hopkins Review 16.3, 2023):

A watery dancevideo of the practice is available here:

Starship Somatics An Invitation Video: 24 mins long, subtitled - published by POETRY (March 2024)

Current Online Practice: (weekly since September 2022): Tuesdays at 11am ET: weekly free Starship Somatics sessions as part of Movement Research.

Blue/purple still, fairly abstract but also the body of a large white woman in a bathing suit underwater. Text: Starship Somatics: An Invitation

An Underwater Dancevideo, 

Starship Somatics An Invitation Video: 24 mins long, subtitled - hosted by POETRY (March 2024)

Premiere: December 1 2022, 8pm, at EXPS/SLC, Union Theater, 200 Central Campus Dr, Salt Lake City, Utah, part of the Beauty is a Verb evening (in person). "EXPS/SLC programming selections prioritize experimental, avant-garde, or radical approaches to creating in the medium of film and video."film and video. 

Access Notes: [Audio Description of film] The film dances with a white queer cis disabled woman of size who moves freely and deliciously through an underwater landscape. Her blue-green patterned bathing suit floats around her form. She is wearing mirrored goggles that reflect the world around her.

Please take full permission to close and open your eyes as desired and join the meditative journey.

This dancevideo shares a starship somatics experience in dialogue with the luscious alternative gravity of an underwater world. Charli Brissey shot the video on Odawa territory, in what is colonially known as Lake Charlevoix, at The Croft Residency in Michigan. With gratitude for development periods at Turtle Disco, Movement Research, and The Croft; and for Stephanie Heit’s gong playing.


Petra Kuppers (she/her) is a disability culture activist, a wheelchair dancer, and a community performance artist. Petra grounds herself in disability culture methods, and uses ecosomatics, performance, and speculative writing to engage audiences toward more socially just and enjoyable futures. Petra is the Artistic Director of The Olimpias, an international disability culture collective, and she co-creates Turtle Disco, a somatic writing studio, with her wife, Stephanie Heit. She is the Anita Gonzalez Collegiate Professor of Performance Studies and Disability Culture at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.


Charli Brissey (they/them) is an interdisciplinary artist who works choreographically with various technologies and materials. This primarily inclues bodies, cameras, gender, desire, instincts, language, and ecosystems. They are invested in movement practices to illuminate the role of nonhumans in formation-practices of self and material environment, and turn to interspecies ecologies to challenge distinctions between nature and culture. They primarily make live performances, installations, and films, and are currently finishing their first book project, an experimental weaving of auto-theory, speculative fiction, and somatic invitations.

Two dancers, one on the ground, one on her scooter, against the background of a violet water scene, part of the Starship Somatics video projected large as dance background.

Two dancers, one on the ground with their hands as a silhouette visible, one on her scooter, against the background of a violet water scene, part of the Starship Somatics video projected large as dance background.

A number of dancers against the background of the dancevideo, reaching out, hand play, others in meditation, some on the ground, inner and outer movement.

How the Starship Somatics Project came about:

Development periods: dance retreats, July 2022 at the Ellis-Beauregard Artist Residency, Rockland, Maine (declined due to COVID), and at The Croft Dance Residency, August 2022, Up North, Michigan, with Stephanie Heit and Charli Brissey (creation of Starship Somatics: An Invitation, a dancevideo).

Discussions of Starship Somatics: at IFTR, the International Federation for Theatre Research, Iceland, as part of the Disability and Performance Working Group (June 2022), Sentient Performativities (UK, June 2022, online), Performance Studies international (July 2022), plenary presentation at ASTR New Orleans (November 2022).

Last week-long Starship Somatics: Speculative Embodiment, July 11-15 2022, through Movement Research (online), with guest artists Elisabeth Motley and Kayla Hamilton: 

Initial development: Starship Somatics at Movement Research, NYC (virtual offering, MELT January 2022, MELT July 2021)

Turtle Disco classes since March 2021 onward - ongoing.

Starship Somatics sharings, residencies and engagements:


September 22, 2pm: Amy Chavasse's Composition class, University of Michigan (part of the Dancing and Writing Disability Differently: Non-Realist Embodiment and the Speculative Imagination series).

Sept. 28-30: Alma College, Michigan

October 6: Broad Museum of Art, Lansing, Michigan

October 11: Charli Brissey's Dance Pedagogy Graduate Class, University of Michigan (part of the Dancing and Writing Disability Differently: Non-Realist Embodiment and the Speculative Imagination series).

October 12: Art and Care online series

October 12-14: University of Colorado Colorado Springs residency

November 2-5: Plenary presentation at ASTR/American Society for Theatre Research

November 10: Environmental Humanities group

December 7: Disability Portraits event, Canadian/Brazilian/US artist/researchers sharing

December 14: workshop at TAI/School of the Arts, Madrid, Spain


January 24/25 2023: presentation as part of Disability Culture Dancefilm Festival, UM Duderstadt, part of the Dancing and Writing Disability Differently: Non-Realist Embodiment and the Speculative Imagination series)

January 18 - February 25: "Starship Somatics: An Invitation" Video Installation was part of Technologies for Change exhibition at the S/PN Gallery at UT Dallas

January 26-28: University of Toronto’s Institute for Dance Studies' annual keynote, with Starship Somatics screening/workshop (in person)

January 25: Speculative Embodiment: Public Screening of Disability Screendance Works, with Kym McDaniel and Charli Brissey, Duderstadt Video Performance Studio, 7-9pm, University of Michigan (in person)

February 24: Starship Somatics's Invitation to Dance video is part of the Rutgers University’s Feminist Art Project/College Art Association’s Critical Design Lab REMOTE Access Party. 7 pm to 9pm EST

March 6: Starship Somatics screening in Christine Hume’s creative writing class at Eastern Michigan University (in person)

April 6: Starship Somatics screening as class visit, Performance Studies class with Vivian Appler, University of Georgia (virtual)

May 24-26, guest artist, JOMBA! dialogues "Integrated Dance Practices: Moving Centres" /African Dance Disability Network. (with an online Starship Somatics session on Friday) (virtual)

Audio glimpses of a sample session below: enjoy the space flight! 

(general description of audio: 

An audio meditation, put on a space suit for protection, feel the earth beneath your floor, touch it gently, enjoy our beauty, ground yourself. Then spin! In your body, in your mind, standing or sitting, around your sitzbones or in your imagination, gathering energy. A dance of spinning energy before LAUNCH! Dream, dance in the ecstasy of launch energy, dreaming another world. Go on a space travel jaunt together. We enjoy a ritual of entry into a starship. How does the starship, the kinship, the mothership, the lovership make you welcome? Experience the multiple ways in which the starship welcomes you, and your particular bodymindspirit. Drift over to the plant room of the starship. Enter and be welcomed among the plants. (every day, we visit with a different room in the starship). What plants welcome you? Here is your home soil. Can you smell it? Can you feel it? What land is it? 

Recorded live during Movement Research MELT July 2021)

First Starship journey.m4a

Up for more somatic work, in COVID times? 

It is part of the University of California Santa Cruz's 3 Minutes Moving (3MM) Project. "3MM provides easy access to physical engagement with three-minute movement experiences presented by master teachers in dance, martial arts, and contemplative movement practices. These practices are for every body; no previous movement training is needed."

You can find the written description of the exercise at the Black Earth Institute's blog on COVID hopes

Zoom Somatics and Four Poems

Crip Geographies (description of movement processes)

This jointly written essay (with my collaborator Stephanie Heit ) presents what happened in a Movement Research workshop we led in New York City, part of the Asylum Project, a multi-year query into disability, madness, boundaries, what asylum means in all its facets, somatics and politics. It is published in Ecotone, an ecological magazine, and publications like these are part of my audiencing strategies: sharing our disability culture approaches and movement scores with others beyond local and immediate audiences.