The Telephone Film is currently featured in The New York Times, as part of a thoughtful piece by reporter Siobhan Burke which explores the evolution of audio description for dance.
Here is the opening excerpt:
The dancer Krishna Washburn remembers attending a performance years ago by a well-known modern dance company at a large New York City theater. Washburn, who is blind, opted to experience the show with audio description: in this case, a track that narrated the dance as it was happening, delivered through a headset.
Intended to make the performance more accessible, the voice in her ear had the opposite effect: She left the theater feeling alienated, excluded. During the finale, a work famous for its deep emotional resonance, she heard people in the seats around her crying. But the audio description evoked nothing that seemed worthy of tears.
“I’m listening to: ‘Two dancers enter stage right; they proceed down the front diagonal,’” she said in a video interview, recalling the describer’s mechanical tone. “‘Two more dancers join them.’ And I’m like: ‘Why did they get you to cry? What’s really happening? There’s something I’m not getting.’”
Washburn now looks back on that moment as a turning point — away from feeling grateful for any attempt at audio description, and toward imagining and advocating more.
The founder and sole teacher of Dark Room Ballet, a ballet curriculum designed for blind and visually impaired students, Washburn is also the co-director, with the choreographer Heather Shaw, of “Telephone,” a film exploring the creative possibilities of audio description for dance. Presented around the country since its premiere last year, “Telephone” will be screened virtually by the New York City dance hub Movement Research on Nov. 15, followed by a conversation with the filmmakers.
The article continues, and includes audio and video:
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Recent experiments in describing dance, like the film “Telephone,” approach it not just as an accessibility service but as a space for artistic exploration.
* A version of this article appears in print on Nov. 12, 2023, Section AR, Page 5 of the New York edition with the headline: Audio Description Finds Its Footing.
Our next screening:
With gratitude to all our colleagues and collaborators (many of whom are featured in the article), we would like to invite everyone to the next virtual screening of the Telephone Film, which takes place on Wednesday, November 15th at 6:30 PM (Eastern), sponsored by Movement Research.
The screening is free, but registration is required:
If the registration form is not accessible to you, please email firstname.lastname@example.org to register
- This event will happen ONLINE via Zoom.
- Once you register, you should receive confirmation from Movement Research and/or Dark Room Ballet with a Zoom link and access to the Telephone FilmGoer Guide online.
- If you cannot attend this screening, there are future screening events that can join — visit the Telephone Film Screenings page for updated info!