The group of nine deaf, hard-of-hearing, and hearing dancers performed more than 20 times from August 2012 through July 2013 in seven states and Washington, D.C., for thousands of audience members in schools and community events.
The show was created and choreographed by Thomas Warfield, director of dance at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf. AstroDance was a joint project among RIT's College of Science, B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences, and NTID's Performing Arts program. It was intended to provide deaf, hard-of-hearing, and hearing children and adults with general information and basic concepts from the fields of gravitational physics and astrophysics while engaging them in an enjoyable and interesting theatrical experience.
Funded by the National Science Foundation, much of the spectacular, animated galactic imagery was produced by RIT computer scientist Hans-Peter Bischof. RIT astrophysicist Manuela Campanelli, Insight Lab director Jake Noel-Storr and several other RIT artists and scientists also worked to create AstroDance. Erin Auble, a faculty member in NTID's cultural and creative studies program, coordinated all of the visual technology and set design.
"What we were presenting was basically an experimental idea to expand our perception of what science is, seeing it from different perspectives and also extending the parameters of how dance can impact our lives," Warfield says.
"Our alliance of science and art presented in this kinesthetic and visual format I believe opens our thinking more broadly, blends our intellect and our imagination, and allows for greater access to diverse understanding,"
Warfield says. "I believe it has helped us reshape our conversations about right brain versus left brain. There isn't a competition or hierarchy—there is one brain. Whether a scientist or artist, dancer or astrophysicist, we use both sides of our brain. Our learning is integrated. Our understanding is integrated. Our expression is integrated. That is the story of AstroDance."