Welsh company Gwyn Emberton Dance launches an online workshop for Deaf and hearing young people this October. Rhonda Lee Reali learns more.
Out of all the arts, dance is where the body is used as an instrument, but for a long time, the deaf have been excluded from this celebration of form and movement. Not being able to hear shouldn’t be an impediment to this experience, and Gwyn Emberton Dance is giving Deaf young people a chance to find their own rhythm.
One of the first new schemes the company is launching is a pilot project called Quiet Beats. Collaborating with Taking Flight Theatre and supported by the Arts Council Of Wales’ Stabilisation Fund, this inclusive programme will take place during the half-term holiday: Mon 26-Thurs 29 Oct, from 10am-1pm each day. Aimed at young people aged 12-18 who are Deaf, a friend or sibling from their social bubble can also take part, and there’ll be two BSL interpreters present each day.
Taking place in The Talent Shack in Cardiff, but required to be moved to online-only as a result of the October/November circuit breaker lockdown in Wales, the series of dance workshops will be led by artistic director Gwyn Emberton, and will look at innovative ways of delivering and creating movement and dance when sound isn’t involved. Emberton – a choreographer, dancer and eponymous founder of Gwyn Emberton Dance, who just celebrated their fifth birthday – believes accessibility and developing dance in communities across Wales is fundamental to what he and the company do.
“We’ve been working with young people from across Wales for many years as part of our summer schools, as well as when we are out on tour with the [Gwyn Emberton Dance] Company. We have been thinking about why we’ve never had any Deaf young people in our summer schools and wanted to do something about it.
“[The group] began working with Taking Flight Theatre and came up with this week of workshops that would be about dancing, experimenting, and exploring together. We want to create a place for young Deaf people to dance and feel comfortable to dance, and hope that this pilot will be the beginning of a long-term project with Deaf young dancers in Wales.”
When asked what challenges – if he sees them as challenges – did he encounter, working with young Deaf people who may lack dance experience, Emberton explains: “Music and rhythm are seen as integral parts of dancing, so dance workshops might not seem like the most obvious thing for Deaf people to want to do. In Quiet Beats, we are going to explore how we can create and make our own rhythms and musicality through the dancing itself and by exploring the physical expressions of the young people.”
What’s an example of a technique you’ll be using or a preview of something that will be introduced to the participants?
“We’re a contemporary dance company, so our starting point will be from there, but the focus will be on creating and making new dances so perhaps we will create new techniques, unique to the group. Robyn, one of our dancers who will be joining me to lead the workshop, will also teach some street dance.”
words RHONDA LEE REALI
Quiet Beats – The Dance Workshop For Deaf And Hearing Young People, online, Mon 26-Thurs 29 Oct. The course is free but spaces are limited. Info: [email protected] or message via Twitter / Facebook / Instagram