Company of disabled and non-disabled dancers perform onstage while amongst the audience were visually impaired people watching with the help of technology
On a chilly March weekend in Seoul, disabled and non-disabled performers from the U.K’s Candoco Dance Company examined individual struggles and triumphs, and the transformational potential of unity. As they danced onstage, members of the audience were breaking their own barriers and together seeing performance in a new light.
Assisted by Relúmĭno, Samsung’s vision-enhancing app, people with visual impairments were able to see the finer details, taking in the movements and the facial expressions of a live performance, many for the first time.
Art and Technology Striving for Inclusion
As the world becomes increasingly fast-paced, everyone can feel that they are being left behind. The importance of accessibility and inclusion in both the arts and the field of technology has never felt more urgent.
Directed by acclaimed Korean choreographer Eun-Me Ahn, Candoco’s performance tackled the subject of inclusion and accessibility head-on. Dancing together, disabled and non-disabled performers prompted the audience to consider life’s daily ups and downs, and the process of all people – with and without disabilities – finding balance in a complex society.
By its nature, dance is a visual medium of art, limiting access for those with low vision. However, the team behind Relúmĭno saw an opportunity to extend the reach of ‘Good Morning Everybody’ and amplify its message by further increasing accessibility. They invited people with visual impairments from all walks of life to the theater to watch using Relúmĭno.
Joining the Conversation
Even before the curtain rose, as Relúmĭno users tried on the VR headsets and adjusted the fit, excitement was buzzing around what they were about to see.
Anticipating the performance, Do-yeon Kwon, a young movie fan, shyly smiled and said, “I can see when I sit on the front row, but my neck hurts and it’s really uncomfortable. I think ‘Relúmĭno’ could be part of the solution.”
Afterwards, it was clear that the piece had taken on a special meaning for those who viewed it through Relúmĭno.
Min-sol Kim described how, in the past, she would have to re-watch performances online after seeing them live to catch every nuanced movement and subtle expression. After watching ‘Good Morning Everybody’, she expressed her emotions at seeing every detail she wanted to: “Right in the middle, when a dancer in a wheelchair got onto the ground using just his arms and delivered an emotional solo, I cried.”
It was also a source of motivation for Gyu-cheol Shim, who suffers from macular degeneration but is himself overcoming the condition through performance and art.
Learning from the Experiences of Others
The developers were eager to talk to the audience and find out more about their experiences with Relúmĭno. Conversations like these inspire the team, helping them to appreciate the impact that the application has on its users.
“Those who use the device in their everyday lives give us the most ideas,” remarked team member Chan-won Lee. “They use it in ways that we could not even imagine.”
Previously, insights from Young-suh Noh, for example, led to the development of a function which allowed the talented pianist to quickly switch between reading music and looking at the piano keys, greatly improving the speed at which he could read and learn new music.
Likewise, choreographer Ahn expressed her desire that we all learn from the Korea-U.K. collaboration and increase awareness of disability in the arts, saying: “Our collaboration proves that our perceptions are indeed changing.”
The stage is a place which is at once unique for each individual and inclusive of everyone, and where barriers are repeatedly broken. Just as Candoco Dance Company is bringing down the wall between disabilities and art through their performances, ‘Relúmĭno’ hopes to bring down the wall between people with visual impairments and live performance.