VUSALA BABAYEVA, WHO PARTICIPATES IN OUR DANCE PERFORMANCE "THE ARGONAUTS", SHARES HER STORY OF BEING A SUCCESSFUL HEARING-IMPAIRED PERFORMER, THE IMPORTANCE OF INCLUSIVE PERFORMANCES, CREATIVE EXPRESSION, AND THE ABILITY TO COMMUNICATE WITHOUT WORDS.
I have been learning about dancing techniques for a long time – I dreamed of dancing since childhood. I participated in my school's dancing competitions, went to dance classes in Baku but always dreamed of more. I joined the “Unlimited: Making the Right Moves” programme in 2018. Afterwards, I was able to take part in an inclusive dance performance which featured at the opening of the International Theatre Conference in Azerbaijan. Later, I was invited to the casting for the "Argonauts" and I made it! To be honest, the previous performance was not easy for me to do, but it was much simpler than "The Argonauts". We've gone through many intertwined, complex plots – from ancient mythology to our personal stories – in a mosaic of dancing episodes.
The creative process was led by UK professionals – Ben Duke, Jemima Hoadley, and Welly O’Brien. The ten “Argonauts” themselves came from four countries – a wonderful and friendly team!
I was the only hearing-impaired performer in the show. When that happens, finding a common language with everyone is a real challenge! When I first joined the project, I felt like my mind was about to explode – I was really nervous! We had to do plenty of individual and group exercises. I was inspired by the others and their performances, but always tried to contribute something of my own to the creative process. Over time, it became easier. We became friends, formed a strong team and could understand each other perfectly. My teammates with normal hearing abilities learned sign language and were tireless in establishing a clear two-way communication with me.
I performed a gesture song, but I didn’t hear what was happening around me. My gestures had to correspond to the idea and plot of the story – to make the audience feel the context and the emotion. The goal is to “verbalise” movements and communicate emotion without words. The song is serious and complex, and my gestures went from being soft and smooth, to rigid and dramatic.
The scene brought a feeling of great vulnerability, but also great freedom inside me. It made me feel a little shy, a bit frightened but completely focused. I could feel the support of my family and friends in the audience – they all feel proud and care so much about me. When you do well, you share happiness with the audience and the feeling of satisfaction with the performers.
It is difficult to overestimate the importance of this performance for the cultural consciousness of citizens of any country. This is another evidence that disabled people can take an active part in social and cultural life. Yes, I am deaf, but I can sing. Deaf people can dance. The worst thing you can do is stop, stay at home and surround yourself with your silence.
Make your dream come true, be brave and take every chance you have. Do not think that deaf people are different. We are just like everyone else. And if you have difficulties, there are always translators who can help us share information. Everything is possible, regardless of whether you hear or not. All you need is the will to succeed.
I am where I am and I will carry on! I am going to keep creating, promoting inclusive dancing, actively collaborating with performers with and without disabilities, supporting my hearing-impaired friends from all over the world and encouraging them to develop in spite of disability. Never give up!