The first ever vogue house of d/Deaf and disabled dancers pushes creative boundaries and fuses sign language into their choreography. Watch a trailer about the creation of The Unlimited House of Krip ahead of Unlimited 2018
A new kind of vogue comes to the Unlimited festival
From auditions to the first performance, a short documentary follows the creation of The Unlimited House of Krip. The documentary will be screened at Unlimited and is available for further screenings.
Garry Robson, Artistic Director of Fittings Multimedia Arts, had a realisation whilst watching his first vogue ball. He was inspired by the different sizes, ages and backgrounds of the dancers, and the celebration of diversity that has developed from vogue's history as an expression through dance of the marginalised black and Latino LGBTQ+ communities in New York in the 1970s and 80s. “It is essentially oppressed voices finding their place within a dance culture and that’s what really appealed to me,” Robson explains.
He saw a space for d/Deaf and disabled voices to join the movement, especially since “some of the moves are so reminiscent of BSL [British Sign Language]. It’s a lot of upper body, hand movements and face work. I just thought – this is made for incorporating BSL within it.”
His idea of fusing BSL with vogue movements led to the creation of a new vogue house, which is the name given to a team of performers in vogue. The Unlimited House of Krip is the first ever vogue house of d/Deaf and disabled artists. “The community that was missing from this, was the d/Deaf and disabled community. And thus came about the idea of The Unlimited House of Krip.”
The house was commissioned by Unlimited, which supports ambitious projects by outstanding disabled artists. An open call for dancers who identify as d/Deaf or disabled was launched in Liverpool.
The successful dancers all have different levels of hearing and feel the music differently. Natasha Julian, a dancer in House of Krip explains: "I hear music with a cochlear ear plant and hear all the beats in the music. I also feel the music with vibrations. Without the ear plant I just feel vibrations, I can't hear anything at all."
Another member of the house, Caroline Parker, describes herself as profoundly deaf in one ear and severely deaf in the other. However, she can hear many things using a hearing aid. "I feel rhythm through music if there's percussion. I don't necessarily get the notes, but I get the emotion and the tone and the feel from music." Ariel Fung and Charlie Hembrow, who make up the rest of the ensemble, feel the music through the bass.
"The community that was missing from this, was the d/Deaf and disabled community"
The Unlimited House of Krip's Ariel Fung performs in the Solo Category. Photo: Fotocad
The dancers are brought together under choreographer Mark Smith of Deaf Men Dancing, who pushed the creative boundaries of vogue by integrating BSL into the choreography. The artists put their own stamp on the piece, helping to create the bass line of the specially composed music by Juga Naut, and influencing the BSL elements in the choreography.
"Everyone's got different ideas and different thoughts of how of incorporate their own BSL and personalities," Julian explains in the documentary. "I'm just so excited to see what our house is going to bring because it's something that's never been done before." The freedom to express yourself in vogue also hits home for Julian: "Part of it is about owning who you are as a person and being proud of it. For me, it's being proud as a deaf person and also as mixed race."
As an ensemble of d/Deaf and disabled dancers, the group worked in new ways. Smith sat down with the dancers to work out the counts, including when there's an absence of beats in the music, from the beginning to the end. This means the dancers can keep control and stick to the counts they know when the crowd shouts over the music during a performance.
House of Krip made its debut performance at the House of Suarez Se7en Deadly Sins Ball in Liverpool in 2017 in front of 1,500 people. They performed again at the House of Suarez + Contact Vogue Ball in Manchester in February 2018 where their unique blend of vogue and BSL awarded them the Best Overall House.
Robson plans to expand and develop The Unlimited House of Krip in the future through open workshops and future performance opportunities. "They're good," Robson tells Disability Arts Online. "They're bringing something completely new to the table."
You can watch a screening of the full documentary from The Unlimited House of Krip at Unlimited Festival alongside a workshop and showcase on 8 September 2018. The documentary, produced with First Take Film and Media, is also available for further screenings.
The British Council has supported the Unlimited commissioning programme since it began and we fund the current 2016–19 initiative alongside Arts Council England, Arts Council of Wales, Creative Scotland and Spirit of 2012.
Find out more:
> Attend a film screening, workshop and showcase with House of Krip at Unlimited Festival 2018
> Discover more about the Unlimited House of Krip
> Read an interview with House of Krip lead Garry Robson
> Get to know Mark Smith's company Deaf Men Dancing
> Follow the Unlimited 2018 series on our blog