On May 22, 2019, Rafał Urbacki passed away. He was a dancer, choreographer, director, dance teacher, a Silesian. And also, he was ? as he used to speak of himself ? a dancer on a wheelchair, a disabled celebrity and a homosexual ex-Oasis* member. He was 34 years old. For people from dance and theatre community, Rafał was an extraordinary companion on the path of creativity. For disabled people, he was an icon of courage, pride and miracle. For all others ? an amazing artist capable of transforming his suffering into art.
He created numerous performances and community projects: Mt 9,7 (2011), Przechlapanem (2012), kto podskoczy jest pedałem, hej! (one who jumps is a faggot, yea!, 2012), STYPA (Funeral Meal, 2012), Pod wielkim dachem nieba. Cz.1. (Under the Heaven?s Large Roof part 1, 2013) ? realised within an artistic residency project, Gatunki chronione (Protected Species, 2014), Serce robotnika napędza praca (The Worker?s Heart is Propelled by Work, 2014), Kształt rzeczy. O węglu i porcelanie (The Shape of Things. On coal and porcelain 2015) ? created in cooperation with Kaya Kołodziejczyk, Bloki i familoki 1 (Blocks of Flats and Multi-family Houses for Coalminers 1, 2015), Jaram się (2016) ? a music installation, Symfonia Fabryki Ursus (Symphony of the Ursus Factory) ? created together with Jaśmina Wójcik, Igor Stokfiszewski, Dominik Strycharski and awarded a prize for the best documentary at the Hot Docs Festival in Canada, etc.
He featured in the following dance books: Pokolenie solo. Choreografowie w rozmowach z Anną Królicą (Centre for Documentation of the Art of Tadeusz Kantor CRICOTEKA, Cracow, 2013), Sobątańczenie. Między choreografią a narracją by Alicja Müller (Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego, Cracow 2017), Odzyskiwanie obecności. Niepełnosprawność w teatrze i performansie (edited by Ewelina Dodlewska-Byliniak, Justyna Lipko-Konieczna, published by Fundacja Teatr 21 in cooperation with the Polish Theatre Institute, Warsaw 2017).
He cooperated also with theatre directors and created choreographies for theatre performances. Worked with Strzępka/Demirski duo (many times), Radosław Rychciki, Katarzyna Kalwat.
Rafał was suffering from myopathy since he was a child and always spoke openly about the fact that he in this lifetime, he is with us only for a short time. He also spoke openly about his homosexuality and his ambiguous attitude towards the Catholic Church and religion. The themes of his artistic work did not come from reading books and creating abstract theories. These themes were the result of his actual experiences and Rafał was capable of working with them uncompromisingly in his performances. Such a critical and radical attitude made people either admire his work or fiercely criticise him for his approach towards religion and for his particular understanding of disability.
Rafał had no sensation from his waist down and in spite of this condition, he walked and danced. Without a pinch of self-pity, he spoke of himself and of others like him as ?spastics?. His performances, in which he touched on this issue had a form of feasts and stand-ups ? at times provocative and at times hitting the audience right in the face, making it impossible for him/her to stay calm when facing the difficult themes.
In the last months, as he was unable to work actively on any project, he kept writing a form of diary on Facebook, where he talked vividly about the merciless disease, which finally came to claim his life. In the field of performative arts in Poland, he created the concept of ?alternative motor skills?, thus creating an inclusive space and shifting the borders of empathy. He wanted no compassion or mercy.
The funeral will take place on Saturday, 25 May, at 12.00 at the Central Cemetery in Gliwice (ul. Kozielska 120).
Currently, Rafał Urbacki?s Facebook profile has the ?In memoriam? status (visit the profile) and you can read Iwona Olszowska brings back memories of Rafał:
Rafał passed away… his life path was loaded with unimaginable hardship… He was suffering from myopathy since he was a child and the disease was accompanied by disappointment, loss…
He conquered the impossible by using the power of his will, talent, work and passion… He came in contact with a miracle and started walking, dancing, creating, teaching…
Sharing his talent and his passion…
But the disease came for him one more time
Rafał was trying to prevent it from developing.
Sharing with us the experience of a person who treads the most difficult part of his life.
He opened his heart, mind and images in front of us…
During each visit, his Mother ? relentlessly accompanying him in his pain ? said that His eyes are glittering and that a smile has appeared on his face. Rafał rarely revealed the immensity of the suffering he was dealing with…
At times he would make plans… at times he would talk about his feelings and what he is going through, or recall something that he was longing after…
The last time I saw him and held his hand in mine, his eyes were filled with love and gratitude… He was looking at me as if he could see more than just my outline. He told me: I see red and green around you…
Then we silently conversed with God.
At this most difficult time, he had access to experiences that are beyond our daily perception of reality…
He was affected by long-term suffering, which he hoped to translate into art. But we will not be able to see his dance solo anymore.
Let?s stay close to Him and his soul, which, hopefully, is now dancing the cosmic dance and is free from pain.
Let?s attend to Rafał?s mother with particular care, she stayed with him in this inconceivably hard time, keeping company with the suffering that he was going through.
Rafał suffers no more
He died at 19:20… May 22.
We do remember
his life and his art.
Rafał is now heading towards the Source, but he stays in our hearts.
Let?s be with Him… when His path towards the Light brightens up.
*Oasis ? also known as Light Life movement is a renewal movement in the Catholic Church.