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Krishna's Thoughts

Krishna’s Mailbag #3 – What is an Open Level Class?

AUDIO: Another installment of Krishna’s mailbag, where Krishna’s talks about what an Open Level ballet class is, and the differences between other dance class levels. (on SoundCloud)

Transcript:

Hello, everybody. This is Krishna, your Dark Room Ballet teacher, back at it again with another Dark Room Ballet mailbag. It’s Krishna’s Mailbag time! Let’s rustle in that mailbag and find if we have any interesting messages today. Oh, this one is really great.

It is, “Hi, Krishna. I have a question about ballet class levels. What is an open-level class, and what do the other ballet class levels that I sometimes find mean?” Okay. So, this is a really important question, and it’s going to help me explain explicitly what Dark Room Ballet open-level class is in depth because I think that I have never actually really explained what it is exactly. So let’s get into what ballet class levels that you might find at different studios and institutions that you might encounter. What do they mean?

Okay. Let’s start with some of the most common labels that you might encounter. You might encounter a class that is labeled as Beginning Ballet. What does that mean? You might think, “Oh, this is the class that you take if you haven’t taken ballet before.” Au contraire, in New York City and throughout most other major cities in the United States, when a class is labeled as a beginning ballet class, that actually means that you have probably studied either as an adult for about two or three years or that you studied when you were a kid for maybe about five or six years, and maybe you have not studied in a while, and you are returning to class.

A beginning ballet class assumes that you have actually a considerable amount of prior knowledge relating to ballet. The most common kind of person that you will see sign up for a beginning ballet class is someone who studied ballet as a kid, did not dance for a long time, and now wants to refresh and relearn those movement concepts. They’re all kind of in the back files of their memory banks, and they need a place to go bring them back to the front of their minds.

If you don’t have any ballet experience, what are the labels you should be looking for? There are two that exist in New York and most other American cities. One is absolute beginner and the other is intro. That’s why Dark Room Ballet’s intro class exists. It is a class that is designed that assumes no prior knowledge of dance at all. Absolute beginner and intro classes are typically given as multi-week or multi-class workshops. They are generally taught in a sequence, and they are generally not an ongoing class. They tend to be for a limited amount of time. It’s to get people their basic knowledge. Now, another word that you might find describing a ballet class is “basic.” Basic ballet class is actually that in-between class between an intro class and a beginning level class. Sometimes adults who are studying for the first time who have completed an absolute beginner or an intro level class will take a year or so of basic before they move on to beginner.

Now, there are also classes called pro. What is a pro class? A pro class is not really a place for study. It serves a very specific function, which is to prepare people who are working dancers, professional dancers for whatever is that they’re going to be doing for the rest of the day, whether that is a rehearsal day or whether that is a performance day. So you will see pro classes offered at about two times during the day usually in the morning at about 10:00. That’s for people who have a rehearsal day, and also in the afternoon at about 2:00. Those are for performers who are having a performance day and who generally have like 5:00 PM call time at their performance venue. That is across the board for ballet and also probably contemporary and jazz classes as well.

Pro classes, in general, the teacher does not demonstrate. What the teacher does is yell a bunch of vocabulary words at the class, and those folks know how to memorize and interpret those movements without having someone demonstrate for them. They will just know. If the teacher yells out, “Okay. Sissonne failli. Tombe pas de bourrée. Coupé. Pas jeté. Tour jeté. Pique step. Couru. Tours en l’air. Single tours en l’air. Double.” They’ll just know what that means and then what to do, and they won’t forget it because it’s their job to know.

Pro classes are typically very quick tempo. The movement is very, very light. It does not bend into the muscles that much because it’s just there to get those dancers warmed up and ready for other exertion later that day. That’s what happens in pro class. I actually love pro class. I’d take pro class all the time. Sometimes with a Katy Pyle of Ballez. Sometimes with Igal Perry at Peridance. It all depends on my mood. Pro class is great for if you are a professional working dancer and are going to be dancing for the rest of the day, and you just need something to get all the joints working properly.

Now, there’s also classes that are labeled different kinds of intermediate. Like you’ll see intermediate, beginning intermediate, slow intermediate, advanced intermediate, intermediate advanced. All these kinds of things that include the word “intermediate.” What is that all about? I think that that term is really confusing, and it really does not describe what those classes are because there’s really essentially two types of intermediate class. There’s one that I call the pre-professional class. That’s really what most intermediate classes are. They’re pre-professional classes. They are there for people who are planning to have a career as a performer and who need to develop specific performance-based skills. So that means they need to learn how to memorize longer dance combinations. They need to know how to do more challenging and complex transitions between movements that they learned earlier on in their lives. It’s generally not a place where you’re going to be encountering new vocabulary, new concepts, and things like that.

There’s another kind of intermediate class, which is not really that. It is more whatever that teacher feels like teaching. There are some teachers who just slap the label “intermediate” on their class because they don’t know what else to do, and it’s more a class where, “This is the kind of class I enjoy teaching. I don’t think about difficulty. I don’t think about level. I just like teaching this kind of material.” Those types of classes, they tend to have pretty loyal student followings because it tends to be students who really enjoy the particular style of that teacher for whatever reason.

So those are the two types of intermediate classes that you might come across. Then, there are open-level classes. What is that? Now, if you call a dance studio up on the phone and you said, “What does that mean, open-level class?” What you’ll get back from the person answering the phone is, “Well, this class is for everybody.” Now, that’s a very confusing idea to a lot of people. “What do you mean this class is for everybody? What is actually going in on there? There’s people who have a lot of experience. There’s people who have only a little bit of experience. What is that all about? What is an open-level class?”

Let me tell you something. Whether you’re studying ballet, jazz, contemporary, any style, open-level classes are cool. Open-level classes are cool because what those teachers who teach open-level classes, myself included, tend to do in order to create an environment where there is many, many levels of dancers, and everybody is learning new things, and having fun, and experimenting, and trying new stuff is they do what’s called unit-based work. Sometimes a teacher will come up with a unit-based on a movement concept. That movement concept might be a body movement. A simple thing like right now, I am teaching a unit on frappé. That means I start the unit from zero knowledge. “Okay. This is the movement. We start from the very beginning.”

Then, as the weeks progress in the unit, whether that unit goes on for eight weeks, 16 weeks, something like that, we try different permutations, different styles, and increase in difficulty level throughout the unit. Then, when that unit wraps up, we put it on the shelf. A few months later, maybe a year later, the teacher returns to that unit and starts the cycle over again. We start from zero, no prior knowledge and moving through the weeks. Each week, more challenge, a little bit different, a little bit more complicated.

At any given time, a unit-based class might have six concepts that that teacher is rotating through. I’m going to be honest. Dark Room Ballet is generally using about 15 or 18 concepts in unit, and they’re all at different points throughout the class. It is so much fun to program a unit-based class because you’re always moving through these different cycles of concepts, putting stuff on the shelf, coming back to it, moving through different ideas. If your students come regularly, they’ll get to cycle through those things again and again as they study. They will always be continually reminded of their fundamentals, helped through to the next level of their study each time they touch upon it, and you’re never ever bored in open-level class.

So let’s say you’re a relatively new student, and you just went through a unit in an open-level class, and you’re like, “Holy cow, that got fast really quickly. My first day, I was hanging in there, but man, second time, that was hard. That was too much for my brain.” Don’t worry. It’s supposed to be like that. The next time that unit comes around, you’re going to be shocked at, A, how much you remember and B, how much farther along in the unit you go feeling calm and confident before you’re like, “Whoa, this is amazingly challenging.”

That’s what makes open-level classes fun and sustainable environments to help serve students all throughout their dancing careers. I have belonged to certain open-level classes for six years, seven years, eight years. There are some open-level classes that I’m probably going to continue to take as long as that teacher is teaching because there’s always experiments, and fun and interesting things going on. There’s always parts of class that are returned to basic fundamental ideas. There’s always parts of class that are a real stretch for me, that I’m really moving into material that is a real challenge, that’s very new.

It’s always a mix of ideas flowing through in and out. You’re always going to be interested in an open-level class. So if there’s ever an open-level class at a different studio or institution that you’d like to try, don’t be afraid of that label. Don’t feel like, “Well, I don’t know what that means,” because now you do. Open-level classes are great. They are cyclical, and if you hang out there for a long time, you know that you’re going to be reminded, and refreshed, and always moving through material that is designed to help you progress, and learn, and develop over time as a dancer. I hope all of you have a lovely day today, and I hope that this mailbag was interesting to you. Much love to you all. Bye, now!

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News / Announcements

Gratitude in the Dark Room: A Collective Dance Improvisation with Krishna Washburn and jill sigman/thinkdance Saturday, July 3rd, 4 PM to 5:30 PM (EDT)

SPECIAL CLASS


[Virtual] Gratitude in the Dark Room:
A Collective Dance Improvisation with Krishna Washburn and jill sigman/thinkdance


Saturday, July 3
4 PM to 5:30 PM EDT
on Zoom

Dark Room Ballet (sponsored by Movement Research) joins jill sigman/thinkdance in NYC to participate in a special, international collective dance improvisation initiated and conceived by Belgian dance artist, Ann Cailliau.

On July 3, dancers in multiple locations and multiple countries will be taking time to use movement to express gratitude and connection through movement and orientation in space. jill sigman/thinkdance will be hosting a live outdoor event in Riverside Park in New York City simultaneously with this online workshop.

No experience in improvisational dance is needed to participate. The whole event is designed for the educational needs of blind and visually impaired people, and participants are encouraged to unmute, ask questions, and self-describe throughout the event.

Infinite gratitude for our collective wisdom, our collective knowledge!

Register:

To register, email: info@darkroomballet.com

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News / Announcements

Dark Room Ballet at CREATIVE CONVERSATIONS: DISABILITY, AGING AND ACCESSIBILITY (Thursday, June 24 at 6 PM Eastern Time)

CREATIVE CONVERSATIONS: DISABILITY, AGING AND ACCESSIBILITY

Thursday June 24, 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM (Eastern Time)

sponsored by the Queens Council on the Arts

Flyer for the event which is described right below...
Event flyer with a photo taking up the top two thirds of the flyer and text in the bottom third. The top 2 thirds of the square shows an image of a black artist with an intellectual disability, squirting a paint bottle directly onto a canvas. With a black sweater thrown over his shoulder, brushes and bottles sit on a cart to his right, with framed colorful prints stacked vertically and neatly on a wall directly behind him. On the bottom third of the flyer, a solid yellow-orange color serves as the background for thick black lettering that reads “Creative Conversations.” Beneath this title, the subtitle reads, Disability, Aging and Accessibility, Thursday, 6.24, 6:00 – 7:30pm. Image by Daniel Tardif

This session invites local artists and community members of all abilities to discuss issues pertaining to creative aging and disability. Worldwide, persons with disabilities represent 15% of the population; in the five boroughs, there are almost 1 million people with disabilities. Additionally, in Queens, the number of older adults has grown significantly in the last 5 years – many with limited access to cultural services.

This session will feature the work of local artists with disabilities, including Krishna Washburn and Alejandra Ospina of Dark Room Ballet as well as representatives from Queens senior centers and the AHRC. The group will then be invited to discuss the intersectionality of aging and accessibility by exploring the following questions:

  • In what ways do the needs of persons with disabilities and seniors overlap, and in what ways do they differ?
  • What are some examples of accessible design that can benefit everyone?
  • As creators and artists, how can we be more inclusive to all communities including people with disabilities and older adults?

This event is held in partnership with the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities. The conversation will be moderated by Walei Sabry, Digital Accessibility Coordinator at the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities.

To register and join on Zoom:

https://www.queenscouncilarts.org/calendar/2021/6/9/creative-conversations-aging-and-accessibility

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Krishna's Thoughts News / Announcements

Krishna writes about Dark Room Ballet and Audio Description for GIBNEY: Imagining (Issue 5, May 2021)

This essay was originally published online in the GIBNEY: Imagining Journal (Issue 5, May 2021)

You can listen to an audio version of the essay below (as read for Krishna by Dark Room Ballet Program Coordinator, Alejandra Ospina) via SoundCloud

What Sounds Feel Like: Ways of Exploring Audio Description

By Krishna Washburn

During these strange quarantine days, I find myself in the most unexpected circumstances: confined completely to my Harlem apartment, mostly the tiny dance floor in my kitchen, unable to make any kind of physical contact with anyone, and yet, suddenly quite famous. I think it was the USA Today article that really changed things: suddenly, I was being approached by radio podcasts, magazines, news programs, all sorts of media outlets, and my email inbox was spilling over with messages from people who wanted to study with me.

And who am I? 

I like to characterize myself as a crazy blind lady dancing by herself in her kitchen. While this description is accurate, I ought to think about the reasons why I choose to use these words, which reveal a desire not to take myself too seriously, but also might reveal the scars of trying to be taken seriously as an artist in an ableist world.

The last few months aside, I have spent most of my career as an artist fighting for any and all kinds of scraps: opportunities to perform, maybe in exploitative work, maybe in respectful work; opportunities to make professional connections, maybe with people who share my philosophies, maybe with people who think of me in ways that I find degrading; opportunities to make a little bit of money here and there, never enough, just anything; opportunities to teach, to use my hard-earned Masters of Education degree, my extensive study of biomechanics, and thirty-six years of classical ballet training. If I managed to grab hold of any of these things in any quantity, I knew that I needed to feel grateful, because chances like these for artists like me were few and far between, chances for blind artists. I learned to not ask for too much, I learned to swallow my pride, especially when all I really wanted was to beg for someone, anyone, to just talk to me.

At its most basic form, audio description is someone talking to you, using a voice and some words, to tell you what your eyes cannot. As performing arts venues have started to consider accessibility for disabled audiences, audio description has become a topic of some interest in the arts. The question sometimes arises: what is the best practice for audio description? Panels of intelligent people with extensive knowledge of performing arts theory discuss this question. Whether they come to any resolution, I could not say, considering that I have never been invited to be part of a panel like that. 

What I do know, though, is what the audio description services are like when I attend a performance, whether live or digital. Usually, I find much to be desired, but I have been trained to smile and feel grateful that anyone offered me a headset at all.

Quite a few years ago, a friend had a ticket for a performance of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at City Center and couldn’t make it. So, I got to go in her place. I got my little headset and sat myself down in what I knew to be a very expensive seat (grand tier), but I was really very far away from the stage itself and would not be able to feel air resistance from the dancers’ movements or hear their footfalls. This program included Alvin Ailey’s Revelations, a piece I had always wanted to experience. I sat there, listening to the little voice in my ear describing diagonal pathways of movement, whether right and left arms were straight or bent, how many dancers were on stage, the colors of their costumes, in the most neutral tone of voice that a human can produce. The people sitting around me, however, were, for the most part, in tears.

I heard people crying, laughing, crying and laughing at the same time, gasping in joy and surprise. Now, I’m not a detective, but I could tell that I was not experiencing the same performance that they were. I was getting my audio description, I was having my access need met, and I should have been grateful for that, but I didn’t feel grateful in that moment. I felt the deepest, most powerful FOMO* that any blind person could ever feel. (Note: FOMO is an acronym for Fear of Missing Out. It describes a certain kind of social anxiety that stems from the fear of being excluded from important events and activities. I believe that FOMO is in general popular use, but I know that it is heard frequently in disability community to describe the desire to participate in life, but being afraid or unsure that our access needs will be met, and that we will be left out.)

I wanted to experience a performance that would make me respond like everyone else in the audience. I considered to myself that these folks would be remembering this performance for years, maybe the rest of their lives, and that they would remember crying in the grand tier at City Center. I also considered that they would not remember everything about the performance. I suspected that whether the dancers’ right or left arm was bent or straight was not going to be the most permanent part of their memories.

Audio description is still a rather new field. Most of what is considered “best practice” for audio description is meant for television or film, media where the performers typically speak; actors act and emote with their voices. The neutral voice in that context sometimes makes sense: it is better to interpret the emotions of the performers based on their performances rather than through explicit description. However, in dance, performers only very rarely speak. The emotional content of their art is conveyed through movement. Is the neutral voice really the best choice in this circumstance?

Quarantine, in its strangeness and its totality for me, an immunocompromised disabled person, has encouraged me to start asking many questions about audio description. I have spent most of my quarantine trying to establish myself as a ballet teacher. My class, Dark Room Ballet, is designed specifically for the educational needs of blind and visually impaired dance students, particularly those who have never gotten to study dance before, but who want to learn the real skill. I speak continuously and constantly through class; a Dark Room Ballet class requires me to develop a rhythmic script which requires about six or seven hours of preparation before I teach. I have this style of teaching coursing through my blood at this point: I dig my heels in before every class and I think about how every movement feels and how to express it in the most musical but most complete way possible. What I have ended up doing, interestingly, is teaching a ballet class where I never talk about what anything looks like. My students learn quickly and learn a lot, they ask me exceptionally well-formulated questions about movement, and I know that some of them are considering professional dance careers. We accomplish this as a group without ever talking about what anything looks like.

Maybe that is the real flaw of audio description for dance, I started to wonder: the language chosen in most audio description is focused on what movement looks like, rather than what it feels like. 

Some of my students have never had sight. They don’t have a list of visual shorthand in their memories that can tell them what a bent arm symbolizes as opposed to a straight arm. Honestly, at this point, neither do I. Perhaps only the most visceral type of audio description, the type that can activate the motor neurons in their own bodies, would be interesting to them.

What sorts of words could do that? What tone of voice? I think it is the tone of voice that those audience members who shared the grand tier with me at City Center would have had when they shared their experience with a friend the next day: intense, passionate, deeply connected to the emotional content of the artistry. Was it an accident that two of my closest friends are audio describers of this kind? For those of you lucky enough to remember life at Gibney in the Before Times, they might have noticed that I came to many performances there, usually with either Michelle Mantione or Alejandra Ospina, or both of them, sitting next to me, whispering to me while I can barely keep my body still in my seat. 

Maybe describing the visual component of dance is less important than the visceral when developing audio description for dance. Maybe, when we develop performances, we have trained audio describers working alongside us during our rehearsal process. Maybe–and this might be my most radical suggestion yet–artists might consider their blind audience as they develop work from the outset. Maybe dancers should be allowed to talk, to self-describe, to emote what it feels like to jump three feet into the air while they’re doing it.

I, myself, have been creating art for blind audiences for quite some time, both in collaboration with visually impaired artists like iele paloumpis and Kayla Hamilton, but also on my own, just creating art that I think my blind and visually impaired colleagues and students will find interesting and exciting and memorable. I never say what I look like as I dance because, truthfully, I neither know nor even really care. I say what it feels like. 

Almost as a lark, I started to work on a screen dance project with a choreographer in California named Heather Shaw. She was a rare choreographer who thought interesting audio description could actually make a dance performance better for the whole audience. I came up with an idea based on the children’s game of telephone, where dancers would film themselves while listening to an audio description track, and audio describers would describe said dance videos, and the chain could go on and on, perhaps evolving along the way, each artist taking their own spin on the expressions, different styles of movement, different styles of speaking, but all having lots of fun. The Telephone Dance and Audio Description Game, which might remain an eternal work in progress, a film that never stops collecting video and audio, is meant to welcome artists from both within and without the disability arts community into the experience of audio description, demystifying it, and legitimizing it as an art form in its own right. 

Before I wrap up my thoughts, I want to clarify that I know that my ideas about audio description are unpopular, not only with arts institutions and dance companies, but also with members of the disability arts community. I don’t speak for every blind artist, and I don’t pretend to be able to do such a thing. I do, however, think it’s worthwhile for me to use my time to create dance performance and dance education for my fellow blind and visually impaired folks, and for me to try every possible way to change the script for audio description, to help it develop into a truly extraordinary art form, to actualize its true potential to help everyone in the audience laugh and cry at the same time together. What better way for a crazy blind lady dancing by herself in her kitchen to spend her time?

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News / Announcements

Dark Room Ballet Introductory Classes for Blind and Visually Impaired Students — Cycle 2 begins on Saturday, May 8!

Beginning Saturday, May 8 from 4:00 PM – 5:30 PM (Eastern Time)   

NOTE: This class is designed specifically for the educational needs of blind and visually impaired people.

This is a FREE class!

Hosted by Movement Research, Dark Room Ballet is designed specifically for the educational needs of blind and visually impaired people.

About Saturday Introductory Level Class:

This class is suitable for people with no prior knowledge of ballet. This repeating series of eight classes introduces students to the most common ballet vocabulary that they would need to know in order to participate in Open Level Dark Room Ballet Class. The class introduces students to necessary anatomical concepts like turnout, torso stability, foot sensitivity and mobility, sightless balancing, and the use of a taped floor for orientation.

Classes take place each Saturday online via the Zoom platform; there is also the option to call in via phone.

Register:
To register, email: info@darkroomballet.com 
You can also reach Dark Room Ballet by phone at (929) 367-0025

  • If you are a blind or visually impaired individual interested in learning ballet remotely, please get in touch before May 8th so you can be registered for this class. If you have some ballet experience, you may also qualify to join the ongoing Dark Room Ballet: Open Level Class on Monday nights; please get in touch with us if you are interested.
  • If you work with an organization that serves blind or visually impaired people, please distribute this information to people who may be interested in registering for this class.
  • If you are NOT a blind or visually impaired student, you may qualify to join the ongoing Dark Room Ballet: Open Level Class on Monday nights on a select basis; please get in touch with us if you are interested.

We look forward to hearing from you soon!

Dark Room Ballet with Krishna Washburn – ballet for blind and visually impaired people

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News / Announcements

A message from Krishna about The Telephone Dance and Audio Description Game

Hello Dark Room Ballet Community!

Many of you probably already know that choreographer Heather Shaw and I have been working on a really fun, joyful disability community film project called The Telephone Dance and Audio Description Game. We are proud to announce that our trailer for the film was recently released to the public! Hooray!


You can watch it on Vimeo here: Telephone – Trailer

We are continuing to collect submissions from dancers and audio describers to include in the film throughout the year, building a portfolio of work from artists dedicated to creating beautiful accessible art. I’m really thinking of the film as a document to capture this special moment in art history, the moment that audio description came into its own as a truly powerful art form. This is going to be a very large cast of artists!


Please let us know if you know of any organizations who might be interested in screening Telephone down the line (universities, galleries, museums etc). We are in conversation with a few already and hope to share this message far and wide. 


If you want to support the artists of Telephone, there’s ways for you to do that! 

  • You can join our Patreon as a monthly supporter: www.patreon.com/telephone
  • You can make a one-time donation through Ko-Fi: 
    www.ko-fi.com/telephonefilm
  • You can share the Telephone trailer on Facebook or other social media and tell people why audio description is an important, powerful, visceral art form!

Much love to all of you!

Yours always,

Krishna

Dark Room Ballet with Krishna Washburn – Ballet for blind and visually impaired people

Categories
Krishna's Thoughts

Krishna’s Mailbag #2 – On Practicing

AUDIO: Another installment of Krishna’s mailbag, where we learn some of Krishna’s thoughts on practicing between classes. (on SoundCloud)

Transcript:

Hi, everybody. It is time for another one of Krishna’s Mailbag, where I read questions from those folks in the Dark Room Ballet community. Everybody, who’s a part, let’s find out what’s in the bag today. Okay, here’s a message. And it says, “Krishna, what’s the best way for me to practice between classes?” This is an amazing question, and it’s a question that I get all the time. And it’s a question that I love to get, because practicing is all part of learning how to dance, getting used to being in the groove for practicing. I have been practicing dance daily for years and years and years. In fact, if I don’t dance for a day, I feel very, very weird.

Here’s some tips on practicing. Let’s say you remember a little bit of a combination that you did in class. I send out maybe a secret email after the class you’ve taken with the song that I used. You can always try and figure out, from your memory, the movements as it works with the song, because you have the song right there in the email for you to try. Let’s say you don’t quite remember, but you’d like to remember. There are recordings of class. You can always contact Alejandra and say, “Hey, I would really like a recording from class to listen to again.”

Let’s say you remember a little bit, but not a lot. You can also work through movements of your own understanding. Let’s say you’re thinking about your en croix leg pattern or your alternating-legs leg pattern. Think about all the different leg movements you can use in those patterns and just practice. Just get a feel, try to replicate the feelings that you do when you’re in class. You can try those leg patterns with your tendu, with your degage, with your pique, with your developpe, with your frappe. There’s no end. You can also think about using your own music and making your own combinations. This is something that I started to do very early on in my dance learning because I was so inspired by the movement combinations and music that I would experience in class, that I would be to try things on my own, make up my own things for myself to have fun with.

Fun is so key here. Fun is so key. And let me tell you something. For every minute that I spend teaching you folks in class, dancing as a professional in rehearsal, preparing lessons, taking formal classes, for every minute that I am working on formalized technique, I am probably also spending a minute in dance for fun and play. If you just want to feel movement in your body, listening to any music you want, or no music, or just the sounds of the world around you, birds maybe, that’s something that I listened to all the time, and just be in dance play. Be curious about the feelings that you have as you experiment with movement.

There’s something else we do a lot in class, and that is thinking about character or narrative or story or setting. Use those as jumping off points for play. And when I say play, what I mean is take the dancer that you are today, with all of the knowledge you have about balancing, about stabilization and mobilization, about connecting to the floor and staying oriented with it, and just playing in that world, making any kind of movement that you want, whatever feels authentic to you in the moment with the technique knowledge that you have today.

Does that mean you need to limit yourself to ballet movements? Absolutely not. If you want to make a dance where you are laying on the floor, that is a great idea. And it’s something that I really recommend for everyone to try at least once. Play dance is what really can help you grow in your relationship to music, in your relationship to performance, as an art form. Never be afraid to play. And with that, all of you have a wonderful day. Keep practicing your ballet technique. Keep thinking about how movement feels in your body, and never be afraid to play and have fun and have a spirit of curiosity in your study.

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Krishna's Thoughts News / Announcements

The Telephone Dance and Audio Description Game

An Invitation from Krishna:

Some of our community knows me best as a dance educator who is passionate about developing dance curriculum that suits the educational needs of blind and visually impaired people. Other folks might know me best as an artist and performer who is passionate about creating art developed with blind and visually impaired audiences in mind and cultivating the beautiful art form of audio description. Over the past several months I have been able to combine my two great passions, education and art making, in an ongoing film project in collaboration with choreographer Heather Dayah Shaw called the The Telephone Dance and Audio Description Game.

Telephone is everything I love: amazing dancers, amazing audio describers, people pushing the limits of their creativity, friendship and community, and dance art that is truly accessible to the blind and visually impaired community. Heather and I have been working on this as a project for a while, and we’ve started to drum up some interest from arts organizations, which means that we need to start thinking about funding for help with editing, promotion, and supporting the huge roster of Telephone artists.

For more information about how you can support this project, please visit our Patreon page! We have sneak peeks of the film, interviews and information about the Telephone team, and an accessible anatomy class that I’m teaching, Anatomy from the Inside Out.

Feel free to share information about our Patreon within and beyond the Disability Arts community. Much love, everybody!

Video description:
Camille Tokar Pavliska is dancing alone in an empty room with an accordion door. The footage is black and white. Seta Morton’s voice narrates her movements. Davian Robinson appears on the left hand side of the screen. He is in a living room dancing in front of his dog, Charlie, who lays on the floor observing. Meanwhile, the text “Dance is visceral… Not merely visual” appears on the left hand side and is narrated by a male voice. Lillian E. Willis’s voice then describes Davian’s movement. Footage of Lillian appears next to Davian’s, she matches his movement. Lillian is in a bedroom with a chair on the left side of the bed.

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Krishna's Thoughts News / Announcements

Dark Room Ballet on the Eyes On Success Podcast

Eyes On Success is half-hour weekly radio program and podcast discusses products, services and daily living tips for people with vision loss. Eyes On Success is hosted and produced by Peter Torpey and Nancy Goodman Torpey and distributed by WXXI Reachout Radio in Rochester, NY through the International Association of Audio Information Services (IAAIS).

On Episode 2113: Understanding Your Body (Mar. 24, 2021):

Krishna Washburn is a professional ballet dancer and instructor who runs Dark Room Ballet. She believes that visually impaired people could benefit from having a better understanding of how their bodies and body parts work. Hosts Nancy and Peter Torpey talk with her about her instructional methods as well as how her on-line classes work.

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News / Announcements

Webinar: Celebrating Color & Identity in Arts Education, April 1 (Featuring Krishna Washburn of Dark Room Ballet)

Image description: Digitally illustrated flyer with green stylized text and depictions of a couple dancing in traditional folk clothing, a person playing a violin, and a pair of ballet dancers turning while on pointe. Text detailed in post below.
Image description: Digitally illustrated flyer with green stylized text and depictions of a couple dancing in traditional folk clothing, a person playing a violin, and a pair of ballet dancers turning while on pointe. Text detailed in post below.

Celebrating Color & Identity in Arts Education

What role does social justice play in arts education? What does it mean to be a culturally responsible teacher? This webinar panel discussion, moderated by Kate Fitzpatrick, will give participants a broad view of what representation looks like in various fields of artistic study. If you are an artist interested in inclusive teaching, accommodations, and examining positionality within the classroom, this session is for you.

Featuring Krishna Washburn (Dark Room Ballet with Krishna Washburn), Victoria Miller (Detroit Public Schools Community District), and Dr. Anthony Cuyler.

When: Thursday, April 1st from 4:00pm – 5:30pm EST

Where: Virtually on Zoom — Details on the SMTD EXCEL Program Facebook page