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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

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Krishna's Thoughts

Krishna’s Mailbag #2

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

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Krishna's Thoughts News / Announcements

In place of catastrophe…

For the past four years, I have been fortunate enough to be in constant collaboration with fellow visually impaired choreographer, iele paloumpis, and their magnum opus In place of catastrophe, a clear night sky, which would have premiered as a live performance at Danspace here in New York City in May of 2020. IPOCACNS, as we cast members often call it, was always meant to be a performance that centered the interests, needs, and desires of blind and visually impaired audience members, so it will come as no surprise that we have continued our artistic collaboration during these pandemic days as a podcast series! Please listen to our first episode here:

More information on the podcast — In place of catastrophe: The Podcast (transcript available)

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News / Announcements

Dark Room Ballet Intro Classes are back! (Starts March 13)

Hello Dark Room Dancers!

I’m so happy to announce that I am going to be teaching Dark Room Ballet Intro Classes again, hosted by the wonderful folks at Movement Research!

The first class is Saturday, March 13, at 4 PM Eastern Time, 3 PM Central Time, 2 PM Mountain Time, 1 PM Pacific Time, and 12 pm Alaska Standard Time!

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 six 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.

Register:

To register, email: info@darkroomballet.com



Schedule information on the Movement Research website:
[Virtual] Dark Room Ballet: Open Level Class

If there is anyone you know who has never studied dance before, in particular anyone who has been unable to study because they were unable to find a class designed specifically for the educational needs of blind and visually impaired people, please share this information!

Movement Research is contacting other organizations on my behalf, but only at my request. If there is an organization that you would like Movement Research to contact to inform the folks there that Dark Room Ballet Intro Class is starting, please include that in your message.

Open Level Classes are also available.
Schedule information on the Movement Research website:
[Virtual] Dark Room Ballet: Open Level Class

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News / Announcements

Krishna Washburn: “I’m Cutthroat; This is My Career” (Stance On Dance)

Originally posted on February 8, 2021 at Stance on Dance

Please consider making a donation to support the completion and publishing of the Discussing Disability in Dance Book Project!

Krishna Washburn: “I’m Cutthroat; This is My Career”

February 8, 2021

BY EMMALY WIEDERHOLT; ILLUSTRATION BY LIZ BRENT-MALDONADO

Krishna Christine Washburn has performed with many leading dance companies including Infinity Dance Theater, Thinkdance, Heidi Latsky Dance, marked dance project and LEIMAY. She has collaborated with many independent choreographers, including Patrice Miller, Iele Paloumpis, Perel, Vangeline, Micaela Mamede, Apollonia Hoelzer and, most notably, with A I Merino who especially created her signature role, ERZSEBET Bathory. She boasts several ongoing artistic collaborations, including work with wearables artist Ntilit (Natalia Roumelioti). Krishna is the artistic director of The Dark Room, a multi-disciplinary project with fellow visually impaired dancer Kayla Hamilton.

Please consider making a donation to support the completion and publishing of the Discussing Disability in Dance Book Project!

To learn more about the Discussing Disability in Dance Book Projectvisit here!

Illustration of Krishna Washburn

Image description: Krishna is pictured facing the front, her head tilted toward her left shoulder and arm. She is holding a white cane in her right hand and her left hand and arm are extended to the side. She is illustrated with long brown hair sweeping right above her head, adorned with red ornamentation. She is wearing a white slip dress.

~~

How did you get into dance and what have been some highlights in your dance history?

I started dancing as a sighted child at age three. I studied ballet with the Royal Academy of Dance. I was accepted to Barnard College at age 18 and was in a preprofessional dance track. By the end of my first year, I experienced rapid dramatic vision loss. I stopped dancing for a long time. I missed dance a lot, but I didn’t have any life skills; I didn’t know how to walk or open a door. I was helpless for a long time. Seven years ago, I felt like I had regained confidence enough to study dance again, and I’ve been working professionally for five years now.

I have been a principle dancer with Infinity Dance Theater and Jill Sigman’s Thinkdance. I just did my second leading role as Elizabeth Báthory in Erzsébet at the New York Theater Festival Summerfest. I’m also working with other visually impaired dancers and choreographers like Kayla Hamilton. I used to dance for Heidi Latsky, for which people probably know me best because she uses photos of me in promo material. In addition to ballet, I have a considerable background in butoh. I’ve played a lot of ghosts.

I primarily dance in other people’s work, but I’ve done some of my own choreography as well, usually in collaboration. I’ve choreographed for collaborations with a visual artist who does wearable sculpture and with a playwright.

How would you describe your current dance practice?

I take class 365 days a year. I’m one of the only people I know at this point in their career who literally takes class every day. I take mostly ballet class, though I also do a lot of jazz and some contemporary. Most days of the week, I’m also rehearsing in one project or another. I generally have three or four projects going on at any given time. In addition, I am a strong believer in conditioning. I weightlift most days. I also teach athletics to disabled youth; I have a certification as an integrative conditioning coach through the American College of Sports Medicine.

When you tell people you are a dancer, what are the most common reactions you receive?

Though I use a white cane, a lot of people don’t know what a white cane is for. They don’t know that it means I’m blind. I generally have to explain. People who know I’m blind often think that dance is some kind of hobby or cute inspirational thing. No dude, I’m cutthroat; this is my career.

A lot of people assume things about the dancing I must do. They wonder how I know where I am. I am patient and happy to explain the minutia to people if they are asking me those questions in good faith. I’m more patient than most, but it is kind of sad. Most people don’t even know a blind person. They don’t understand what it means to be blind.

What are some ways people discuss dance with regards to disability that you feel carry problematic implications or assumptions?

There are two categories of feedback I find problematic. One is: “I couldn’t even tell you are blind/visually impaired,” as if I’m trying to hide it or I’m ashamed of the fact. Why would I be embarrassed? This is who I am and this is the body I work with. I think they are trying to assure me that they couldn’t tell I have a disability. The other feedback generally comes from people who know ahead of time that they are going to see a blind performer. I think it colors their perception of what they are about to see so strongly that they are not able to see the content of what I’ve done, and instead are fixated on seeing some blind lady dance. It’s almost as if my identity is too distracting that they can’t pay attention to the performance itself.

With regards to press, what advice would you give to a reporter who is unfamiliar writing about dance artists with disabilities?

Talk to the disabled performer. I understand that sometimes reporters work on a deadline and have to run home and write but, if you have the opportunity, talk to us directly. If you have dumb or embarrassing questions, let me help you out so what you write isn’t detrimental to disabled dancers as a whole.

Do you believe there are adequate training opportunities for dancers with disabilities? If not, what areas would you specifically like to see improved?

I’m only going to speak for blind and visually impaired dancers, but I feel like the educational opportunities available take the worst possible approach. They treat the blind or visually impaired dancer’s body like a marionet and don’t encourage bodily autonomy. In other words, the teacher moves the student around, which basically prevents the student from learning how to dance.

Nobody should ever touch a blind person without saying something first. I don’t know why this is so hard for people to understand. I know a lot of blind people are accustomed to being manhandled, but it’s not the mindset I want serious dance students to cultivate about themselves.

There are certain skills I believe a visually impaired or blind person needs to have prior to studying dance seriously, which are directional hearing, internal balance and foot sensitivity. I created a workshop called Dark Room Ballet which develops these skills. However, I haven’t gotten to teach it to many blind people, though I keep trying. I’ve mostly been teaching it to sighted people, which is kind of sad. But if a blind or visually impaired person can cultivate those skills first, they can study any dance technique they want.

I really like when teachers use verbal descriptions. That’s one of the reasons why I’m still in ballet class; I know my terms, so I can listen and comprehend. I feel that the more contemporary tradition of just having dancers follow the teacher or choreographer is very inaccessible. Being able to describe the steps or choreography is vital for visually impaired dancers.

I also like when dance teachers offer their own body for blind students to touch and learn from for more complex shapes and patterns. It’s much more respectful than moving the dancer like a piece of clay.

Would you like to see disability in dance assimilated into the mainstream?

Something I like about our disability arts community is that in a way we’re pioneers. We don’t have to replicate the crappy things about dance culture that already exist. We don’t have to encourage dancers to trash themselves physically and ignore their wellbeing. We don’t have to replicate tyrannical choreographers. We have a cleaner slate. I would actually like if non-disabled dance culture would assimilate to us.

With regards to open classes, I sneak into open class every day. My money is the same as anyone else’s. Sometimes I ask the teacher for permission; usually I don’t. If you feel confident enough that you can be in the room and no harm can come to you, do as you want. If somebody treats you wrong, they’re breaking the law.

As for performance venues and festivals, why would they not consider disabled performers and artists for any program? We’re spectacular. We’re talented. We’re creative. We’re coming up with some of the newest and most innovative ideas.

Once I auditioned for a dance company and had a great audition, but the choreographer told me that, while he liked the way I moved, he wasn’t sure if he wanted his company to go in that direction, as if disability is a distraction from his genius. I don’t know what to do about people like that. I don’t want to collaborate with people who aren’t thrilled to collaborate with me.

On the other hand, I sometimes get approached for projects or companies I’m definitely uncomfortable with. I was recently approached by a playwright wanting to make an inspirational semi-autobiographical play about me but with a tragic romance. That’s called fetishism.

What is your preferred term for the field?

I like the term “visually impaired” because it’s like a big tent and it doesn’t ask people to go into the minutia of how much sight they have and thus create a sight hierarchy, which I think is counterproductive. I like “disability arts” because we all have multiple artistic skills, whether it’s dance, music, acting, writing or visual arts. As for me personally, I call myself “blind lady” or “blind lady dancer.”

In your perspective, is the field improving with time?

I feel like it is improving in certain ways. Alice Sheppard won a Bessie award, and that was one of the greatest things that ever happened. I want to be Alice when I grow up. However, while the disability arts community is becoming bigger and more exciting within it, getting non-disabled people to support us is still challenging.

For example, in order for me to be safe in my performance space, I need a little time in the space before tech rehearsals. That’s just basic. If I can’t learn the dimensions and feel the floor texture, I can’t perform safely. Sometimes venues don’t understand that. On the phone or over email, they’ll tell me I can’t come in early, but when I appear and I have my cane and am wearing shades, they say, “Oh my god, what can I do for you? Can I guide you around by the arm?” It’s this weird bipolar relationship. On the phone they deny me access, but when they meet me in person, they suddenly feel guilty. It’s very complicated and stressful and puts me in a lot of uncomfortable situations. I was able to get an hour and a half on my stage when I performed last month. I had to work really hard really fast. If I was not as skilled as I am, I wouldn’t be able to pull it off. This scenario happens to me repeatedly.

Any other thoughts?

What I would really love is to just do my work. That’s all I care about. It’s been so difficult for me to acquire the skills I have so that I can work at the level I do. I wouldn’t do this if it wasn’t the most important thing in the universe to me. I’d sacrifice just about anything else. I breathe dance every minute of my life. And I’m a hustler. I take every gig I can get unless I think it is inspiration porn. I’m in class every day. I’m constantly building my skills and talking to people about the art I do. I’m always striving. I work so hard, but some people think I just show up on stage and manifest as a fascinating other-worldly alien creature. No man, I’m a straight up jock hustler. I have a gig every month, and it’s going to be like that until the day I die.

Krishna Washburn, photo by Jazzmine Beaulieu

Krishna Washburn, Photo by Jazzmine Beaulieu, taken in relation to Maria, a choreographed drama by Micaela Mamede

Image description: Krishna is pictured standing and facing front with her left foot gently pointed to the side of her. She is holding a white cane to the right of her body and both hands are delicately holding the cane. She is smiling with her face cocked over her left shoulder. Her hair is in a long braid adorned with a white headdress and hanging over her right shoulder. She is wearing a white slip dress.

~~

To learn more about Krishna’s classes for visually imparied dancers, visit darkroomballet.com.

Please consider making a donation to support the completion and publishing of the Discussing Disability in Dance Book Project!

To learn more about the Discussing Disability in Dance Book Projectvisit here!

Categories
Krishna's Thoughts

Krishna’s Mailbag #1

AUDIO: Krishna discusses her educational background and the idea behind Dark Room Ballet. (on SoundCloud)

Transcript:

Hi, everybody! This is Krishna… and the Dark Room Ballet mailbag! Let’s see if there is anything interesting in the mailbag today.

(shakes bag)

Well I have here a very popular question, which is “Tell us a little bit about your own personal education, Krishna. How did you come up with Dark Room Ballet?”

All right, here is my own personal education. My education as a ballet dancer comes through Royal Academy of Dance, which I started studying when I was three. I also have an undergraduate degree from Barnard College which is the women’s college at Columbia University, and I have a Master’s of Education, and that would be elementary grade education, from Hunter College. I also have a special certification through the American College of Sports Medicine, I actually have multiple certifications through ACSM, and I have a specialty in biomechanics.

What is biomechanics, you might ask? Biomechanics is the application of mechanical science to structures of the human body. Lots of third class levers in the human body, and that is something that I know quite a lot about.

So, that is my educational background. So if you combine all of those things together, my many, many, many years of ballet study, my education background, and my long-term study of biomechanics, you have the fundamentals to develop a class like Dark Room Ballet, which is rooted in Royal Academy of Dance style ballet training, with real, recent understanding about human cognition and learning needs, and also the biomechanics background, so that way when I teach blind and visually impaired dancers, it’s easy for me to communicate anatomical concepts for them as they study, and learn dance from inside out.

How did I come up with the idea for Dark Room Ballet? I felt like it was something of a necessity, because while there are blind professional dancers out in the world, each one of us has had to kind of re-invent the wheel. I took what I have learned from all of the wonderful teachers in my life, and I am doing my part to end that system — make this into a way where we can help every artist self-actualize with the support they need.

So, that is Krishna’s mailbag for today. If you’ve got any questions for me, you can just ask me, and maybe I will dig into the mailbag (shakes bag) and find it for you.

Have a great day, everybody!