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Sadler's Wells inclusive =dance

Published: 1 September 2014
Reporter: Vera Liber

Laura Dajao Credit: Courtesy of Sadler's Wells

This year, Sadler’s Wells launched the start of =dance, a new series featuring work created and performed by deaf and disabled artists. Running from May 2014 to March 2015, it is the biggest presentation of inclusive dance ever programmed by the theatre.

Presenting work by both established and emerging inclusive dance companies, =dance also includes a programme of workshops, discussions and professional development opportunities alongside each performance.

The second production in =dance is from DMD+ (Deaf Men Dancing+), who present Hear! Hear! on Sunday 28 September 2014. Founded by deaf choreographer Mark Smith, DMD+ is made up of professional dancers who are deaf and incorporates a range of dance forms and sign language to create a unique choreographic practice.

Hear! Hear! explores personal and intimate ideas about being deaf, expressed through DMD+ company members' personal experiences, aiming to change people’s perception of deaf dance. It features music based on Mark Smith’s hearing test graphic chart composed by Michael England.

The songs are written by deaf musician and songwriter Deafboyone and reflect both Smith’s and Deafboyone’s personal experiences of being deaf and suffering with tinnitus.

For Hear! Hear!, Smith works with Caroline Parker MBE, a deaf actress and sign-song artist who performed at the London 2012 Paralympics Opening Ceremony and one of the inspirations for Smith’s latest work.

Parker is working with the dancers to develop signs into movement and integrate them into Smith’s choreography.

Mark Smith, founder and choreographer of DMD said: “I am very excited to present the world première of DMD’s new work Hear! Hear! at Sadler’s Wells’ =dance.

"I have watched many productions at the theatre in the past, which have made me become the artist I am today and inspired me to set up Deaf Men Dancing. DMD and I are extremely honoured to be part of Sadler’s Wells’ first festival of work by deaf and disabled artists and to share them with audience.

“This year is the first time that DMD and Sadler’s Wells are working together and I look forward to working with the theatre in the years to come and to inspire more deaf and disabled people to love dance."

Jane Hackett, Co-Director of Creative Learning at Sadler’s Wells said, “Some of the most interesting dance work being made today is created and performed by deaf and disabled artists.

"Sadler’s Wells has previously had a relationship with some of these artists, through commissioning or programming work, but this is the first time the work has been presented all together, highlighting the profile and impact that these artists have within the dance sector.

"Besides the diversity of performances offered, the accompanying programme of workshops and discussions provide inspiration and knowledge to emerging performers and an opportunity for audiences and performers to interact.”

Alistair Spalding CBE, Artistic Director and Chief Executive of Sadler’s Wells added, “Sadler’s Wells has a history, dating back to Lilian Baylis herself, of making dance as accessible as possible.

"Aside from the capabilities of our current building, the theatre has long challenged perceptions around who can and should dance through the extensive work of our Creative Learning programme; however this new series marks a significant development in our focus on inclusive dance.

"The level of quality and innovation that is currently produced by deaf and disabled artists deserves a proper platform and focus, so it is absolutely right that we are providing it, and I’m delighted to be doing so.”

DMD+’s workshop Creative Deaf Dance on Sunday 28 September 2014 teaches young deaf adults DMD+’s unique choreographic style, led by the company’s founder Mark Smith along with DMD+ dancers Joseph Fletcher and Kevin Jewell.