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Studio Sessions: Days Two and Three - with Chris and Ariel

Days Two and Three of studio sessions for SIGN CRIMINAL with Chris, Ariel and myself, at ACE Dance in Birmingham. In these sessions we are focusing on creating new movement together and practicing on the movements we developed on Day One.

Day Two: Today we are moving on in the Joyful Scene, working on a tutting routine to add towards the end of the hip hop choreo that we developed in the last session. As tutting features a lot in this story, we are using it as a substitute for sign language - the idea is to try to avoid direct communication through signing, by using movements instead, and the tutting dance style (which involves the use of hands and arms to create shapes and visual images) works perfectly to depict ‘sign language’ abstractly through dance and movement. To prepare for tutting requires a lot of stretching in the wrists, fingers, elbows and shoulders, as the shapes need to be large, clear and crisp.

So now is a good time to start stretching and dusting off our tutting skills in time for the sharing. We begin with a warm up led by myself, with lots of hand, fingers and arm stretching.

After teaching Chris and Ariel a tutting routine that I developed, we went over it over and over again so it's fully memorised by everyone, and in sync. Then we played the music and practiced some more, keeping up with the tempo and rhythm.

The music for the tutting routine is the same track we are using for the hip hop routine we created in the first part of the scene - so we figure a way to link the tutting routine to the hip hop routine.

Also, as the tempo is a little quick with lots of accentuated beats, we needed to speed up in our tutting routine. So we spent a fair but of time just going over and over the whole piece with the music, as it was more challenging than the hip hop routine.

After lunch, we move on to the Night Club Scene.

For this scene, we will have a dance battle between a deaf character (myself), and two hearing characters (Ariel and Chris). So we spend some time alone to work on some top rock and house dance movements, creating 4 times 8 counts of choreography each. With the choreo memorised, we get together and have a go with our new music tracks, and then show each other what we have created.

And then we work around the dance battle, creating start and end sections to develop the structure of the scene. We also add some acting, and freestyle elements, and casual nightclub dancing, and interaction between the characters and the DJ, as well as interaction with the audience.

By the end of Day Two we had polished up on the work from Day One, added a new tutting piece which we learned and polished up on, and then began developing the Night Club Scene - structuring the scene, having a bit of play on the acting sections, and working alone on our own short dance pieces for the dance battle in this scene. Day Three:

We arrive at ACE Dance at 9:45am, set up and begin a warm up and stretch session, led by Ariel.

Today, we continue the development of the Night Club Scene, and polish up on the Joyful Scene, and especially the new tutting section.

As we are deaf dancers, collaboration between us is different from that of hearing dancers.

Whilst communication and understanding is clear and perfect, as with all deaf people - we have different levels of hearing and responses to music. So when working together on routines that require the three of us to dance in sync with each other, this has proved quite a challenge, even for experienced and professional deaf dancers like ourselves. Learning the choreography isn’t a problem - we all pick it up quite fast.

Now, we have to play the music and match the movements to the beats perfectly.

So there’s a lot of experimenting, trial & error, and loads of practice, as we use visual cues, vibration, audio memory and strong bass - working together to fine tune our sync as best as possible.

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