Woman in glasses with her hair pulled back, smiles in her teal button down
Motor Media, Marketing & Management
Performance at Chinatown Gate, Boston; image by Olivia Huang

Last month, Creative City grantee Wendy Jehlen led a group of seven Deaf movement artists in a series of public pop-up performances throughout Boston, called Project Listen. The troupe, raising awareness that dance/movement is for both the hearing community and the Deaf, too, performed their unique, wordless piece.

Performance at Park Street, Boston; image by Olivia Huang

Throughout an entire Saturday, Project Listen performed at Park Street MBTA Station, Chinatown Gate, City Hall Plaza, Museum Wharf, and Copley Square. The performance series marked the culmination of movement workshops taught by Deaf movement artist John Ying, ANIKAYA director Wendy Jehlen, and guest artist Dakei from Tokyo, Japan, and featured eight Deaf performers. “I have been part of the Deaf community since I was a teenager,” shares Jehlen, “and Deaf theater and poetry have always been part of my practice as a choreographer and performer.”

“The performance is non-verbal,” shares lead artist and choreographer Wendy Jehlen, “performed by members of the Deaf movement performers living in Boston, Somerville, Cambridge, New Hampshire, New York and Rhode Island. Participants have been meeting since last summer and is part of the development of a new Deaf dance theater called Show of Hands Theater Company, taking advantage of elements of Deaf culture to create a new way of communicating in movement.”

Photo Anton Uhl

“We are placing the Deaf experience at center,” Jehlen continues, “rather than pulling them into our arbitrary center. In the Deaf community, we talk about ‘Deaf gain’ rather than ‘Hearing impairment.’ This concept recognizes the benefits of Deaf culture-- including facility with visual communication, facial expression, and most importantly a sense of community and interdependence - in the creation of the performance work. This multi-centered approach to performance and community is the deeper mission of ANIKAYA Dance Theater. ANIKAYA’s mission is to break down the perceived boundaries between people, cultures and art forms. ANIKAYA weaves together music, dance and storytelling to create works that pull from the full range of the body's communicative capabilities. ANIKAYA also has an intrinsic commitment to collaborating with Deaf performers, and incorporating aspects of Deaf culture and American Sign Language Poetry into performances. Our focus on placing the marginalized at the center results in cross-cultural works of visual theater that are accessible at an integral level to both Deaf and hearing audiences.”

About Wendy Jehlen, Choreographer, and Founder of Anikaya Dance Theater
Wendy Jehlen is the artistic director and founder of ANIKAYA Dance Theater. Her career has been marked by international explorations, study and creative collaboration. Her unique approach to choreography incorporates elements of Bharata Natyam, Odissi, Capoeira, Kalaripayattu, West African dance, Butoh, and a wide-range of contemporary movement forms. Her emotionally powerful choreography has been created and performed in the U.S., Canada, Italy, India, Japan, Korea, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Mali and Turkey. She earned her Bachelors in Ritual and Performance from Brown University and her Master of Theological Studies in World Religions from Harvard Divinity School. Her works include Entangling (2015), a duet with Burkinabe choreographer Lacina Coulibaly inspired by Quantum Entanglement; The Deep (2015), a work for 25 dancers created in São Paulo, Brazil; Lilith (2013), a solo on the first woman; The Knocking Within (2012), an evening-length duet on a disintegrating relationship; Forest (2010), a journey through the archetypal forest; He Who Burns (2006), a trio on the figure of Iblis (Satan); Breathing Space (2003), a collaboration with Japanese choreographer Hikari Baba in Tokyo; Crane (2002), based on images from Japanese Buddhist poetry; and Haaaa (2002), inspired by the experience of childbirth.

About Community Partner Show of Hands Theater Company
SOHTC is Boston's unique Deaf grassroots community theatre company, and we are known for our commitment to nurturing the true 'Deaf theatre' concept.