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British Council/Unlimited Commission: International Street Dance Collaborative 2021

In July 2021 I was awarded a brand new micro commission by British Council and Unlimited to begin an exciting international collaboration project with Deaf street dancer Nabil Lassoued from Tunisia.

In early 2021, the British Council and Unlimited partnered up to support disabled artists to locate their disabled peers in one of 62 countries and apply for funds to explore those connections virtually. Round One was awarded in spring, and now it’s time for Round Two!

Billy Read (England: Midlands) will collaborate with Nabil Lassoued (Tunisia) in Street Dance Collaborative: A dance battle connecting Deaf Communities between UK and Tunisia using their audiences on Instagram to create a dance battle to connect young deaf communities in Tunisia and Britain.

The aims of this exciting new project are for me to establish new connections and networks with a talented Deaf street dancer called Nabil from Tunisia as well as the Tunisian Deaf community.

Having already collaborated with several Deaf dancers worldwide over my career - including dancers like Antoine Hunter (USA), Fun Forest (Hong Kong), Redeafination (Singapore), Andrei Dragunov (Russia) and more, this is another fantastic opportunity for me to discover more Deaf talent abroad, and

I am truly grateful to British Council and Unlimited for giving myself and Nabil this opportunity.

What makes this project different from all the other collaborative projects I've done previously, is that Nabil and I will take part in a dance battle on Instagram Live to an online audience from anywhere in the world. This is new to me personally, as I've never actually done a dance battle before! Let alone one where there will be an audience watching it on Instagram in real time.

What's more, there will be a series of dance workshops live on Zoom in our respective countries, with both of us teaching in all the workshops - so there will be Zoom classes for UK participants and another set of Zoom classes for Tunisian participants, with both myself and Nabil present in all classes, taking turns teaching.

These sessions will allow young Deaf people from both countries to take part and learn dance from a Deaf role model based in a different country.

And finally, there will be a series of video tutorials in the Popping dance style by myself and Nabil, published on our social media channels. I will teach the tutorials in BSL whereas Nabil will teach his tutorials in International Sign Language, and all the videos will be captioned in English.

We started the project in early September, promoting our highly-anticipated Dance Battle through a series of promotional videos and posters published across all our social media channels to generate interest and draw attention. The battle itself took place in mid-September, which also featured a Deaf MC, Rinkoo Barpaga, to host the event. It was watched and enjoyed by many people Deaf and hearing alike, and was well-received with heaps of praise from several people whom watched the event.

What makes this project different from the other collab projects is that Nabil and I will take part in a dance battle on Instagram Live to an online audience from anywhere in the world. This is new to me personally, as I've never actually done a dance battle before.

Following the Live Battle, we began our Zoom workshops right away, starting with the first session for UK participants, which included several groups of Deaf school children from schools around the UK, who were excited to learn from an international Deaf dancer and role model. We ran two Zoom sessions per week, one for UK participants and the other for Tunisia participants.

What was really interesting however was that the classes we did for Tunisians, included several participants from other countries whom had watched our Live Dance Battle - there were people from Holland, France, Morocco and Algeria involved, which made them 'international' workshops, another new experience for me!

The Zoom workshops in both the UK and Tunisia ran from late September to late October, and currently we are publishing our video tutorials online each week - you can view them on our Instagram pages: @defmotion and @poppin_lass, as well as on Def Motion's Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Nabil and I would like to say a huge thank you to the British Council and Unlimited for supporting and funding this ambitious and exciting project. This collaboration has not only allowed us to create exciting work, its also brought people together and established new networks between Deaf communities and dancers from two different countries, and both myself and Nabil hope to continue working together in the future.

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