HOMETOWN ENTERTAINMENT: “Poetry in Motion” offers deaf-accessible ballet at Center in the Square

The event is happening Saturday, May 13 at 5 p.m. on the Trinkle Stage
It's a ballet designed for both the hearing and non-hearing audiences
Published: May. 12, 2023 at 5:57 AM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - ”The process of making this ballet, no one’s ever done it before,” says “Poetry in Motion” ballet creator William Smith.

With help from a Roanoke City arts grant, Smith is about to make his dream of a deaf-accessible ballet a reality.

“I’ve always had this idea of having a ballet and marrying American Sign Language to it,” says Smith.

His vision called “Poetry In Motion” features an evening of spoken word, music, film and ballet. It’s accompanied by an American Sign Language interpretation.

Betsy Quillen is a deaf actress who will serve as the ASL interpreter.

“So, I have my mind in every single part to make sure that everything is acceptable to the deaf audiences, that everything is conveyed accurately in American sign language,” says Quillen.

Smith’s ballet, “The Lark Ascending” will be the highlight of the evening’s event.

“There’s a piece of music called ‘The Lark Ascending’ by Ralph Vaughan Williams. And to me, it’s the most beautiful piece of music I’ve ever heard,” says Smith.

Smith says it’s based on a poem by the same name.

“We’re going to have the poem read in the beginning and interpreted; then we’re going to have a choral work based on the poem that is deaf-friendly,” says Smith.

The dancers in the show will essentially “sing” the poem using their bodies. And Quillen says there is a sizeable audience for this kind of inclusive production.

“Between Roanoke and Lynchburg, we have a thriving deaf and hard-of-hearing community,” says Quillen.

Meanwhile, Smith has a hope for what the audience will come away with.

“It doesn’t matter who you are, the arts can reach out to you,” says Smith.

“Poetry in Motion” will take the Trinkle Stage at Center in the Square Saturday May 13 at 5 p.m. Call the box office for tickets at 540-224-1200, or you get them at the door.