B.C. dance company set to debut performance for visually impaired audience

The latest show by a Vancouver-based dance group is designed specifically for audience members who can't see it.

The new show by All Bodies Dance Project, a contemporary dance company that includes both disabled dancers with mobility devices and standing dancers, is called Translations and premieres Tuesday.

The troupe has collaborated with VocalEye, a non-profit that normally creates verbal descriptions of live theatre performances but also uses tactile descriptions at certain events.

The tactile descriptions involve using a person's back as a kind of canvas to translate the motion of the dancers through touch. Each audience member is paired with a guide who will draw descriptions on their body during the show.

Sighted audience members are also invited to be blindfolded to immerse themselves in the experience.

Maggie MacPherson/CBC

At some points during the performance, the dancers provide descriptions to the audience of their own movements or the movements of other dancers on the stage. 

"Sometimes the descriptions are quite exacting and very descriptive and then other times, layered on top of that, is a much more metaphorical and poetic description," said artistic consultant Collin van Uchelen, who has been blind for 20 years.

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Van Uchelen said hearing the sound of the dancers' movements — their feet on the floor, wheelchairs moving, the swish of clothing, the movement of air around their bodies and their breathing — creates an overall sound experience that is very engaging. 

"Sounds will come from my left and arc around me to my right and then be close in front and then further away in the distance, and as these sounds move there are several dancers who are moving at the same time," said van Uchelen.

"Hearing that really begins to give shape to what the piece is."

Translations runs Nov. 19-24 at Performance Works on Granville Island.