BalletNext's search for innovation led the New York City-based company and its Artistic Director Michele Wiles to a of first-of-its-kind production, a ballet called "Follin."
"Follin" is a performance that incorporates American Sign Language in both language and movement. To create this accessible piece, Michele teamed up with deaf dancer and choreographer Bailey Vincent. Their hope is to encourage inclusivity within the dance community, and to increase awareness of the needs of people with hearing impairments, without sacrificing technical or artistic standards.
This piece is named for Bailey's daughter Follin, who is also deaf. Follin would often write words about her deaf experience as a child to express her frustration and Bailey has incorporated the signing of these words into the dance. “It’s sort of like a letter from her to whatever members of the deaf community are watching the show,” Bailey explains.
Bailey and Michele met after Bailey sent the BalletNext founder an email pitching her idea. Now, the collaborators are 2 of the 5 dancers who perform in this groundbreaking ballet.
Both women express their hope that the emotional impact of their piece will resonate across audiences of varying abilities. Bailey believes it will be touching for deaf audience members, because "it elevates this language." And as for hearing audience members, Michele says that "it's going to open their eyes."
Bailey began losing her hearing in her teens due to a medical condition called atypical cystic fibrosis. Her internal metronome allows Bailey to dance in time without hearing the music. In her daily life, she reads lips in interactions with people with full hearing; and when she's choreographing, Bailey communicates through an interpreter. She trained at Rockbridge Ballet in Virginia before college and later danced with a small company in the DC-metro area and is currently the Director, Choreographer, and a Dancer for Company360. Bailey is also a mother to two girls, a wife, a disability and chronic health advocate, a body positive promoter, a social media and tech geek, a professional journalist and writer, and a deaf culture advocate.
Michele founded BalletNext in 2011 and serves as its Artistic Director. Born in Baltimore, Maryland, at age 10 she moved to Washington D.C. to train at the Kirov Academy on a full scholarship. She was a Gold Medal winner at the 18th International Ballet Competition in Varna, Bulgaria; a Bronze Medal winner in Nagoya, Japan; and a finalist at the Paris International Dance Competition. She received a Fellowship from the Princess Grace Foundation for 1999–2000, and won the Erik Bruhn Prize in 2002. After joining American Ballet Theatre in 1998, Michele was promoted to soloist in 2000 and to principal in 2005. In 2011, she left American Ballet Theater to start BalletNext.
As BalletNext's search for innovation continues, hopefully we'll see Michele and Bailey collaborate again soon.
To learn more about BalletNext, visit them at: http://www.balletnext.com/
To learn more about Company 360, visit them at: https://www.companythreesixty.com/
This HooplaHa original video is produced by Dani Guitelman, shot by Fanny Texier, and edited by Kellie Sieban.
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