In November, Artistic directors Maria Oshodi of Extant, Vicki Amedume of Upswing and Kumiko Mendl of Yellow Earth, collaborated with two visually impaired aerialists (Amelia Cavallo and Kahless Giles), a Nigerian blind soprano (Victoria Oruwari), and Japanese blind Viola player (Takashi Kikuchi).
With a contribution of funding from the Liberty Festival, this R/D pjoject allowed Extant to start the process of combining movement, music and song with access at its heart.
The idea germinated from Extant’s last production, Sheer (www.sheer.org.uk), in which Extant began to develop movement work with a blind aerialist that integrated poetic description of the body’s appearance and action, delivered live by the aerialist. Ordinary description serving visually impaired audiences of highly physical performance is usually provided technically through a headset device and is remote from the action taking place. Our alternative method relocated the description at the heart of the piece. By having it delivered by the performer in action, it brought a heightened sense of location and dynamism to the access feature, as well as being an enhancement for non-visually impaired audiences.
The Aerial Alloy phase of R/D gave the team an opportunity to start to explore these techniques, and using music, words and song we took the artistic starting point of the tradition of Japanese blind Biwa Hoshi players, and connected this to the visually impaired performers as the vessels of journeying epic story-tellers themselves.
A sharing of the results from these 3 days to an invited audience gave very useful and positive feedback, encouraging us to want to develop our ideas further.