GDIF2016 – Deaf Men Dancing

We’re highlighting some of the companies and performances scheduled for this summer’s festival. First up is an introduction to Deaf Men Dancing and their show TEN, written by Deaf Men Dancing’s Choreographer and Director Mark Smith

Deaf Men Dancing is an all-male deaf dance company with a fusion of different styles of dance incorporating British Sign-Language into movement. The essence of my work is to use sign language as an inherent part of the creative process and integrate it into the movement vocabulary, rather than use it as a commentary to the performance.

Deaf Men Dancing - TEN 6

The ideas I developed for TEN, were inspired by double acts like Laurel & Hardy, Flanagan & Allen, Morecambe & Wise, Abbott & Costello and Gilbert & George. I was also inspired by vaudeville & music hall acts.

When I was a kid, Charlie Chaplin was my idol. I grew up watching Chaplin’s films. The silent film format was accessible for me to watch because it was very visual and even had “subtitles” or just “titles” for me to read. That’s where I got the idea of getting the dancers to hold printed cards with text to the audience during the performance. While I was researching for TEN, I discovered that Chaplin was good friends with a deaf actor Granville “Red” Redmond, who appeared in Chaplin’s films. Chaplin admired the natural expressiveness of a deaf person using American Sign Language. Chaplin’s interest in Deaf Culture gave me the idea to incorporate a deaf awareness course into TEN but in the form of Ten Commandments.

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In the 60s, Gilbert & George famously created a live-art performance called Singing Sculpture where they stood on a table for eight hours. Gilbert held leather gloves & George held a walking stick. Their faces were painted in silver. They mimed to an old music hall song called Underneath The Arches – a song in which two tramps describe the pleasures of sleeping rough. It was a telling choice, harking back to prewar England and traditions of vaudeville, while also identifying with the fringes of society. Singing Sculpture gave me the idea for TEN. I’ve collaborated with designer Ryan Dawson Laight, who designed DMD’s previous outside performance, Alive!, and he’s designed a table for two dancers to perform on and deliver “speeches” to the audience in a form of Speaker’s Corner or Soapbox such as those that used to to be located on the corner of Park Lane and Cumberland Gate. The table is also a kind of Pandora’s Box, containing surprise props for the dancers to use for the performance.

I collaborated with deaf musician and composer Sean Chandler to develop ten different tracks and I was lucky to have sound designer Syd Funnell onboard to provide the soundscape for TEN.

Deaf Men Dancing will perform TEN at Greenwich Fair on Saturday 25 and Sunday 26 June. Times & location tbc.

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Follow Mark Smith on Twitter @DeafMenDancing1
Deaf Men Dancing on YouTube
Deaf Men Dancing website

Paralympic Heritage Flame at Stoke Mandeville

GDIF has been busy working with a stunning creative team on a programme of events at Stoke Mandeville and Aylesbury in early March. Commissioned by Aylesbury Vale District Council and supported by Arts Council England, this ambitious project will inauguarate an exciting new biennial Heritage Flame Ceremony at Stoke Mandeville supported by the International Paralympic Committee and the British Paralympic Association.

Paralympic Opening Ceremony - Ziya Azazi © Getty Images

Paralympic Opening Ceremony – Ziya Azazi © Getty Images

Why Stoke Mandeville?

1948 saw the commencement of the first ever organised athletic day for disabled athletes alongside the Olympic Games. The Stoke Mandeville Games, founded by neurosurgeon Sir Ludwig Guttmann on the lawns of Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire, transformed into the global phenomenon that is now the Paralympic Games.

Stoke Mandeville Games © buckslegacy.org

Stoke Mandeville Games © buckslegacy.org

The London 2012 Games and the Legacy

Building on the momentum of the London 2012 Games, including the Paralympic Games, and in recognition of Stoke Mandeville as the birthplace of the Paralympic Movement, the UK has been awarded the honour of involvement in all future Paralympic Games Torch Relays.

This March, ahead of the Sochi Winter Paralympic Games, Stoke Mandeville will host the first ever international leg of the Paralympic Torch Relay, and will become the first place in history to be involved in the Relay outside of the Games’ hosting country.

Paralympic Flame © buckslegacy.org

Paralympic Flame © buckslegacy.org

Heritage Flame Celebration ‘Spirit in Motion’ – Sun 2 March, 2014
Aylesbury Waterside Theatre 7:30pm, Free tickets via ballot

Enter the public ballot now (Deadline: Sun 16 February – click image below) for a chance to win free tickets to this celebratory occasion bringing together Paralympic athletes and live music, art and performance, including disabled aerial artists from the 2012 Paralympic Opening Ceremony, visual artist Rachel Gadsden, and performances by soprano Denise Leigh and by Andrea Begley, winner of BBC One’s “The Voice”.

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Paralympic Heritage Flame Lighting Ceremony Broadcast – Fri 7 March, 2014
Tune in to the global broadcast of the Winter Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony in Sochi to watch the Paralympic Heritage Flame Lighting Ceremony. Follow the Paralympic Torch Relay from the Flame Lighting Ceremony at Stoke Mandeville Stadium to its joining with torches from 46 cities throughout Russia. This unified flame will be used in a final relay before the Opening Ceremony.

For more information on these events, please visit http://www.buckslegacy.org/ or the Paralympics’ site at http://www.paralympics.uk.

Paralympic Opening Ceremony © Deck Accessory Flickr

Paralympic Opening Ceremony © Deck Accessory Flickr

To share the Paralympic magic with you in Aylesbury and Stoke Mandeville, we invite you to continue connecting with us via our blog, Facebook and Twitter for updates on this exciting international artistic endeavour.

Liberty Festival receives Gold Award

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At National Paralympic Day the Mayor of London’s Liberty Festival was awarded the Gold Standard of Best Practice by Attitude is Everything for showing continuing commitment to venue access to their customers and performers. Liberty Festival is the first festival in the UK to receive … Continue reading

National Paralympic Day at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

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National Paralympic Day (Saturday 7 September 2013) was the first free event at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park since its re-opening earlier this year. The event celebrated the first anniversary of the London 2012 Paralympic Games and featured an exciting programme … Continue reading

One Year On from the Paralympic Opening Ceremony

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By Bradley Hemmings, Artistic Director at GDIF It’s exactly one year on since the Paralympic Opening Ceremony which I had the great privilege of co-directing with Jenny Sealey. What an incredible, joyous, tear stained night it was. From the pre-show … Continue reading

Voice of Russia: Exclusive video report on GDIF2013

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Voice of Russia have done a brilliant Festival news report on GDIF2013 featuring As The World Tipped by Wired Aerial Theatre, The Limbless Knight by Graeae and Faust by Bad Taste Company.   “Aerial performers have opened London’s biggest open-air … Continue reading

“Everyday Hero” – The ideas behind the show by Bicycle Ballet

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22o, how did we, Bicycle Ballet, come up with our show, Everyday Hero The idea for the show started in 2009 when we were running our first ever stand alone, Bicycle Ballet, workshop in Lambeth and a blind woman emailed to … Continue reading

BSL and subtitled video intro to GDIF2013

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(with audio & subtitles) Deepa Shastri, gives you a fantastic BSL interpreted summary to this year’s Festival. See Deepa’s Festival summary video below and further down for more BSL interpreted videos giving you more detail on how to plan your … Continue reading

“The Limbless Knight – A Tale of Rights Reignited” – The R&D process

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  By cast member Tiiu Mortley, Graeae Graeae and GDIF present The Limbless Knight – A Tale of Rights Reignited  In The Limbless Knight – A Tale of Rights Reignited Jenny Sealey (Artistic Director of Graeae and co-Artistic Director of the … Continue reading

Greenwich+Docklands Festivals and Disability Arts – updates March 2013

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Liberty Festival We are really excited to be planning the delivery of Liberty again for 2013 on behalf of the Greater London Authority. Liberty is the GLA’s annual festival of arts and culture that commissions and showcases work by Deaf … Continue reading