INTERVIEW: Surface Area Dance Theatre | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Alex Rowland, Charlie Dearnley and Chris Fonseca. Dancers are wearing Subpac technology that translates sound to vibration. Image by Paul Miller

Surface Area Dance Theatre’s new performance at BALTIC explores the power of British Sign Language (BSL), d/Deaf culture, Japanese culture and butoh. Behind The Face Of A Rock, Throwing Stones will be performed on Friday 8th-Saturday 9th July, with workshop activity also taking place on the Saturday.

Deaf dance artist and global deaf ambassador Chris Fonseca is one of the performers in this project. He discusses the links between BSL and dance as well as how that impacts his work.

“British Sign Language is not only a form of communication but is also a visually receptive dancing language. At the core of my work is a fusion of dance, and elements of sign language, that reinforce visual concepts; a message sent by the performer is received by an audience who then, by nature, raises an awareness of sign language. We embrace and appreciate sign language as a language that inherently promotes a level of understanding and sign language culture, formed by grammatical structures that easily incorporate dance, sign song, poetry, and visual vernacular.”

The work of performers and events like this can help bridge gaps in equality and make entertainment and creative expression accessible for more people.

British Sign Language is not only a form of communication but is also a visually receptive dancing language

“I am witness to, and support in my work, an expanding awareness which I know is embraced in contemporary dance and art.” Chris explains. “We know to expect and find a daily world occupied by a spectrum of dancers in size, race, disability and religion and that we are respectful to artists from diverse backgrounds.”

This project makes use of SubPac, a wearable technology that translates sound to vibration and is accessed by dancers, DJs, gamers and VRS. Chris shares how he interacts with this tool.

“My relationship with SubPac allows me to identify deeper levels of sound/bass so that my body feels drum beats and counts, tone and tempo. This body-to-sound and vibration relationship reinforces my understanding of music. I feel sound through vibration. SubPacs are very useful as they support my ability to channel a focal point that directs my intention when I’m choreographing and performing to music.”

Surface Dance Theatre are not only presenting performances, but a BSL accessible workshop as well. “I believe it is very important to engage with the community on multiple levels. These different approaches reach people by visually demonstrating the diverse and wide-reaching spectrum of arts activities that are experimental and test ideas. This, I believe, is the best way of sharing knowledge and experience and recognisably the best way to engage diverse audiences and communities.”

Accessibility doesn’t stop there. Behind The Face Of A Rock, Throwing Stones explores a range of cultures, identities and languages, culminating in a celebration of the human experience.

“As an artist involved in the production, I have gained newfound knowledge that has flourished throughout the project’s journey, and with this follows an appreciation of diverse art, cultural language, movement and sound.” Chris explains. “The experience has expanded my creativity and developed my understanding of accessibility and how I can enjoy the process as much as audiences that enjoy the live performances!”

Surface Area Dance Theatre present Behind The Face Of A Rock, Throwing Stones at BALTIC, Gateshead on Friday 8th and Saturday 9th July, with the workshop taking place at midday on Saturday 9th.

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