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A new vision of dance.

Since 1998 the British charity organization Vocaleyes has been doing pioneering work enabling blind and partially sighted people to experience the joy of the arts through high-quality audio description. Funded through a grant from the National Lottery and with further support from the Arts Council and private donations, Vocaleyes originally specialized in describing touring theater but has since expanded its activities to include descriptions of leading West End musicals, touring opera, classic drama, pantomimes, and visual arts exhibitions.

In June of this year, Vocaleyes underlook its first audio-description of a dance performance when the organization collaborated with London's Sadler's Wells Theatre on a special introduction to the Ballet Nacional de Espana's performance of Antonio Gades's flamboyant dance drama Fuenteovejuna. The initiative was part of Sadler's Wells's continued efforts to increase access to its activities; these programs already include the Deaf Debating Dance forum, weekly dance classes for adults with learning disabilities, and regular captioning of performances for hearing-impaired patrons.

On the day of the performance, Vocaleyes invited visually impaired members of the audience to attend a special workshop with the flamenco teacher Nuria Garcia and a number of her students, where participants were guided to feel the movements and shapes of the body and explore the use of gestures and rhythm. Vocaleyes's describers invited the patrons to an onstage Touch Tour of the set, where participants were also encouraged to feel the costumes and props.

Audio-describers Andrew Holland and Louise Fryer, who had already summarized the story line for the patrons before the show, gave a live verbal commentary throughout the performance, describing the stage and the set as well as the mood and lone of certain scenes, the facial expressions, body language, and movements across the stage of the characters. The audio description was transmitted into the auditorium over an infrared system and picked up by the visually impaired persons' headsets.

Vocaleyes and Sadler's Wells consider the initiative a success and intend to develop their collaboration in the coming seasons.

(Note: The Kentucky Center for the Arts in Louisville has maintained a similar program since 1991.--Ed.)
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Title Annotation:charity organization Vocaleyes works with Sadler's Wells Theatre to make dance accessible to blind and partially sighted individuals; Dance Matters
Author:Meinertz, Alexander
Publication:Dance Magazine
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Nov 1, 2003
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