Publication: “Dance & visual impairment"

© The Humane Body
© The Humane Body

The first version of this book was published in 2014 by Centre national de la danse in Paris as a manual to support dance teachers working with blind and partially sighted students. By translating it into English, thousands more teachers, artists and organisations now have the opportunity to learn from the information, insights and examples of good practice it describes.


THE TEXT RAISES QUESTIONS of how our senses are used in dance teaching practice. In considering how we might develop a more inclusive teaching methodology for blind and partially sighted learners it also exposes other questions: how might traditional ocular-centric teaching models be denying the potential for everyone of a more multi-sensory approach to learning dance? What possibilities might there be for a pedagogy that embraces touch and hearing as equals with vision?
THIS EDITION OF THE BOOK IS NOT ONLY ABOUT TEACHING. The English translation was initiated by a separate project. In 2015, four of Europe’s most active commissioners of contemporary dance performance came together for a project called The Humane Body: Ways of Seeing Dance. This Creative Europe supported project aimed to bring ideas of accessibility for blind and partially sighted audiences into the heart of the choreographic process. Could we encourage a way of creating that considered the sensory experience of dance performance differently? This book captures the reflections of the artists and audio describers who joined in this experiment. Their journey of creating performance experiences that do not primarily rely on an audience’s vision is fascinating and complex. The project challenged both preconceptions of the nature of blindness and assumptions about how all of us connect to dance. By examining how to communicate differently it inspires another approach to ‘taking care’ of the spectator.
QUESTIONS ABOUT LANGUAGE ALSO EMERGE IN THIS TEXT. Audio description is an established, refined access tool for blind and partially sighted people. But is the way of describing a film suitable for describing a dance? How can words be used to capture the poetry of a dancing body without imposing interpretation on what is essentially enigmatic? Because dance is an experience
we somehow feel in the body, even when we are only observing, does this change the vocabulary we need to talk about it?
THE SOCIAL MODEL OF DISABILITY demands that organisations and institutions remove barriers to participation for all disabled people. Dance practice all over the world has grabbed this idea and transformed in response. But dance can go much further. Through inclusive practice in teaching, creation and performance we can develop the art form as a whole. Our creative approach to inclusion will lead us to achieving extraordinary things. I hope that as well as being a source of information this book serves as a provocation to keep us taking steps on this journey.

Eddie Nixon
Director of Theatre and Artist Development, The Place, London.
May 2017.

On behalf of:
Centre national de la danse, Pantin /  Wiener Tanzwochen, Vienna / Kaaitheater, Brussels


This digital edition was produced as part of the project The Humane Body – ways of seeing dance.
The Humane Body is co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union.



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