Teaching dance to people with visual impairments presents unique challenges for the understanding and execution of physical movement. Dance is often taught as a visual subject, and many instructors utilize a visual call and response method to introduce new movement. However, these obstacles are easily surmountable and movement-based arts, such as dance and yoga, can provide people with visual impairments opportunities to strengthen their balance and proprioception. For this week’s prompt, I’ve developed a two-part module that will require participants to draw upon their existing movement skillset to create an auditory choreography they will later put into practice. The first portion of the workshop is inspired by the Colorado Ballet’s audio-described dance program. Initiated 18 years ago, the program aims to involve blind patrons in the viewing of ballet (Wolf, 2014).
- To begin, participants will select a familiar daily routine and record an unedited draft on a cellphone or audio device.
- Together, we will listen to the audio recording and identify five key verbs.
- Using the selected terms, the participant will describe the verbs and string them together in a manner of their choosing.
- The goal is to create an audible dance that is visually exciting through the use of detailed imagery, strategic timing, and dynamic intonation.
My Written Choreography:
“I hug. I lower. I rip. I swipe. I hold. ------ I hug my niece into my arms, I lower her body down some feet, I rip the Velcro from its purchase, I swipe the treasures she’s made herself, I hold my nose from the smell. ------ I hug the diaper around itself, I lower it into the depth of the bin, I rip her from the changing table so far, I swipe her hair just the right way, and I hold. I hold the baby. I hold the memory. I hold.”
Once the story has been written and recorded, the participants will work on translating their routine and accompanying verbs into movement. Depending on their level of ability, dance may begin with isolations of the hands/arms, encompass the entire body while seated, take place next to a supportive area (such as the barre), or take place in open space.
Prior to rehearsal of the choreography, I would be certain to describe the area, and, with the participants’ permission, physically guide them around the space. Together we would assign movement to their phrases and I would employ a hands on approach to demonstrating technical movements I feel they could attempt.
An interesting journal article in the British Journal of Visual Impairment describes the reaction to a choreographed piece intended for people with blindness. The piece had dancers approach people with visual impairments and asked them to voluntarily engage in a duet of sorts. The piece was received with mixed reviews, and while some expressed kinesthetic empathy, other referenced feeling excluded or stressed (Kleege, 2014). Personally, I feel the work reached its intended goal. Participants engaged in art and were able to form opinions based on their personal preferences and outlooks.
Kleege, G. (2014). What does dance do, and who says so? Some thoughts on blind access to dance performance. British Journal of Visual Impairment, 32(1), 7-13. doi:10.1177/0264619613512568
Wolf, S. (2014). How blind people experience dance. Retrieved April 17, 2017, from http://www.cpr.org/news/story/how-blind-people-experience-dance