SPIN is a dance party created by contemporary dancer Anna Seymour and offers an immersive experience combining the visual and tactile elements of DJ music, visual installation and dance performance. However, SPIN is no ordinary dance party. Your hosts are Deaf, and invite you to challenge your understanding of how dance and music can be experienced.
Inspired by club scenes in San Francisco, Mexico, Cuba and Berlin – SPIN celebrates the physical and social experience of dance parties, subcultures and the beats that bring us together. The Melbourne Critique spoke with Anna, about being artist, being deaf and being lost on the dance floor.
What lead you to the life of an artist, why create, why is it essential to you?
My fundamental love is for movement. I’ve always loved moving since I was a little girl. Perhaps because of my Deafness and growing up in a hearing family/world, I found movement to be a natural way of being, surviving and expressing in this world.
I started dancing when I was 6 years old but stopped in high school. I was 19 years old, when I saw Bangarra perform in Queensland, and that night changed everything for me. It was when I knew I wanted to be a professional dancer. I moved to Melbourne in 2002 and, you could say, I moved at the right time because Deaf artists and artists with disability were starting to enter the mainstream and become more known. I studied a Bachelor of Contemporary Dance and being a dancer, despite my own resistance and doubt, felt natural and right to me.
I cannot imagine a life without dancing, without art. It keeps me alive and sane!
Described to us the clubbing scenes which have inspired you to create this work, how are they different to the Melbourne clubbing scene?
I loved the clubs in Berlin. I went to a kink club which sounds hardcore but it really was not. I felt so welcome, safe and accepted. The people were older and there was a mix of ages – young and old. It didn’t feel sleazy or empty. The people in Berlin have a much more liberal approach to body image and sexuality.
Burning Man was not necessarily a club but it really changed my perspective of “party culture” and about how to be individual yet a collective, a community.
It was really interesting to observe the social dancing scene in Cuba. The people of Cuba really use their public spaces, there are people walking all over the roads, people are dancing and playing music together. Here in Melbourne, roads and so-called public spaces don’t really belong to the people.
Why is this work important, and aside from artistic rationale, what does this work hope to achieve, what bridges do you hope it to build?
People are often surprised or shocked when they meet Deaf people out and dancing. There is nothing unusual about Deaf people inhabiting nightlife spaces or experiencing the joys of moving. This work aims to quell misconceptions that hearing people have about Deaf people experiencing nightlife, music, dance and club culture, as well as, some misconceptions some Deaf people have about themselves accessing these spaces.
Through the communication modality of this work I aim to level the playing field between hearing and Deaf people in these settings. I want to share some Deaf perspectives with audiences and to dissolve some of the communication and physical barriers between people through moving together.
Describe the exhilaration of dancing in a group that was held and led by Deaf people.
It was just so amazing. Usually Deaf people are on the margins, on the outside and are led to believe that we don’t dance or can enjoy music because we are Deaf. We are raised to believe that we don’t have access to music or rhythm and that we need to rely on hearing people to lead us.
That night when I was dancing in a big, tight, sweaty mass of Deaf people dancing in rhythm together and leading some of the famous dance moves, it was a very liberating moment for me; it made me feel fiercely proud of my culture, who I am and what I have done. It also made me feel sad because that hasn’t really happened in Australia – NOT YET ANYWAY! It is going to happen in SPIN.
If tomorrow you awoke, to a world with out art, how would this make you feel?
I do love a fresh start.