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Dance Residency at Royal School for the Deaf, Derby

As part of my Sign Criminal commission, I ran a series of week-long dance residencies at several schools and colleges around the country in the summer of 2019. The Royal School for the Deaf in Derby was one of the highlights.

Following the success of my residency at Communication Specialist College in Doncaster, I headed to Derby for another week of dance performance and workshops, games, brainstorming, drama and poetry. Also supporting me on this residency were Ariel Fung, Chris Fonseca, Chris Bartholomew and the producers at Deaf Explorer.

The residency (also known as the Billy Read Project) involved the students at the Royal School for the Deaf to help them understand how to feel the beat through vibrations and look at the visual movement of dance.

Headteacher Helen Shepherd said: “Dance can actually be quite natural for deaf children, because they are very visual and more attuned to body movement. The workshop helped the children to sense music through vibrations – much the same vibrations as a hearing person will sense in a loud concert. Though the average hearing person may not pay much attention to this, deaf people are highly sensitive to the slightest vibration. The children thoroughly enjoyed the experience of working with the dancers and introducing our students to fantastic role models like Billy, Ariel, and Chris is a key part of the work we do at school.”

Here's a glowing testimony by Marie Clampitt, the lead BSL teacher at Royal School for the Deaf:

"Billy Read Dance Project has delivered a fabulous concept of the play and it was wonderful to see the dance group students developing confidence, techniques and dance and drama skills. I think the team has inspired some students to take part in further dance projects.

It was absolutely wonderful to have such inspiring deaf role models, Billy, Ariel and Chris, leading with their own professional experiences. It was very valuable for all of our students to have the opportunity to meet them and to take part in developing a range of skills

The team was very good with encouraging every student to be involved and giving everyone a taste of dance. We hope to have Billy Read Dance Project again at our school."

Left to right: Chris Fonseca, Ariel Fung, Marie Clampitt, Billy Read, Chris Bartholomew


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