“I am deaf, but I sing. Deaf people can dance. The worst thing you can do is stop, sit at home and lock yourself in your deafness”: the interview with an artist of an international inclusive performance

The culmination of four years of activity of the international British Council’s programme Unlimited: Making the Right Moves became a new inclusive dance performance — “The Argonauts”. It was created by the British group Candoco Dance Company in collaboration with the international team of artists from Lost Dog. One of the participants of the performance became a hearing-impaired girl Vusale Babayeva from Azerbaijan. We are talking with her about the importance of inclusive productions, creative expression and the ability to convey the necessary emotions without words.

I’ve long been interested in dancing practice and I’ve dreamt of dancing since childhood. At school, I participated in all events, attended dancing classes in Baku and dreamed about more. I joined the Unlimited: Making the Right Moves in 2018. Then, I took part in the dance performance which opened an international theatre conference. Afterwards, the organizers invited me to a casting for “The Argonauts” performance, and I passed it. My first experience was not easy, but it turned out to be much easier than “The Argonauts”. There are many complex plots in the “The Argonauts” – from ancient mythology to our personal stories, an impressive variety of dance pieces.

The creative process is led by British professionals — Ben Duke, Jemima Hoadley, Welly O’Brien. “The Argonauts” team includes 10 participants from four countries: Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia and Ukraine. There was a wonderful and friendly team!

I am the only hearing-impaired participant. In such a case, finding a common language with everyone is another challenge! When I first got into the project, the brain began to boil and exploded, I was very worried! There were individual tasks and collective ones. I looked at others and how they perform tasks, tried to bring something of my own into the creative process. Over time, it became easier, we all met and became friends, became one team, we used to finish each other's thoughts, we meet with a smile. The guys learn sign language and try very hard to communicate on equal terms.

I perform a gesture song. But I don’t hear anything from what is happening around. My gestures should correspond to the plan and plot, through them people should feel the situation. The task is to “verbalise” movements, convey the necessary emotions without words. The song is serious and complex, which means the gestures should not be soft and smooth, but more rigid, dramatic.

The scene gives great vulnerability and at the same time – great freedom. A little embarrassment, a little fear, a thought that you need to keep yourself in control... At the same time, the support of relatives and friends inspires me, they are all very proud of me, admire, worry. When everything is done well, it brings joy to the viewer, and for artists – satisfaction and a feeling that everything is not in vain.

It is difficult to overestimate the importance of such performances on the cultural consciousness of citizens of any country. This is another confirmation that disabled people can take an active part in social and cultural life. Yes, I am deaf, but I sing. Deaf people can dance. The worst thing you can do is stop, sit at home and lock yourself in your deafness.

Realize your dream, be courageous, use any opportunities. Do not think that deaf people are some kind of “not like that”. We are just like everyone else. In addition, there are translators who can help us share information. Everything can be achieved, regardless of whether you hear or not. Where there's a will, there's a way.

I am here and I will go further! I intend to continue to engage in creativity, promote inclusive dance practices, actively collaborate with disabled and non-disabled artists, support hearing-impaired friends from different countries around the world and encourage them to all-round development, despite deafness. Not one step back!


Unlimited: Making the Right Moves is an international British Council programme that supports the professional development of disabled artists. The programme includes educational events, research and consulting work, support for the production of professional works in performing art.

More about the Unlimited programme: www.britishcouncil.org.ua/programmes/arts/unlimited 

More about “The Argonauts” project: http://www. britishcouncil.org.ua/programmes/arts/unlimited/activities-2019 

Featured photo: Dmitrii Yershov, LB


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