Listening to Movement: LMA and Audio Description

By Joel Snyder and Esther Geiger.

Published by The Arts Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

A skilled performer almost always seeks to communicate with an audience. It is assumed that the audience is able to fully perceive the skill of the artist and experience that communication.
But what if the exchange is interrupted, not by lack of clarity on stage, but rather by an audience member’s lack of access to that full perception. How, for example, can a blind person “see” a dance performance?
This paper will discuss how audio description, enhanced by Laban Movement Analysis (LMA) fundamentals, provides access to the arts for people who are blind or have low vision. Describers observe, select, and then succinctly and vividly use language to convey the visual image that is not fully accessible to a segment of the population—new estimates by the American Foundation for the Blind now put that number at over 21 million Americans alone who are blind or have difficulty seeing even with correction.
In the United States, the principal constituency for audio description has an unemployment rate of about 70%. With greater access to our culture and its resources, people become more informed, more engaged with society and more engaging individuals—more employable.

Keywords: Applied Translation, Narrative Techniques, Screen Translation, Target Audience, Translation Theory

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp.11-18. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 581.013KB).

Joel Snyder

President, Audio Description Associates, Takoma Park, MD, USA

Joel Snyder is the President of Audio Description Associates, LLC and the Director of the American Council of the Blind’s Audio Description Project in the United States. One of the first audio describers, Joel Snyder began describing theater events and media in 1981. In addition to his ongoing work in these genres (“Sesame Street,” DVDs, and feature films), each year he develops audio described tours for major museums throughout the United States including the Smithsonian Institution, the Getty, the Albright-Knox, the National Aquarium, and several State museums and myriad National Park and Forest Service exhibit centers. He has introduced audio description/conducted audio description workshops in 30 states and D.C. and in over 25 countries; in summer 2008, Snyder presented workshops in Montpellier, Shanghai, and Beijing and provided description for the World Blind Union in Geneva. Most recently, he trained describers in Brazil and presented papers on description in Italy at the International Conference on the Arts & Society. He holds an M.A. in theatre arts and is a Ph.D. candidate with a focus on audio description at the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona.

Esther Geiger

Audio Description Associates, Takoma Park, MD, USA

Esther Geiger was exposed to both German Expressionism and Labanotation by dance mentors in the 1960’s and 70’s, and first encountered Laban Movement Analysis in 1980 as a Movement Major in Wesleyan University’s Master of Arts program. Her thesis on playground design used LMA to look at how the architecture of a play space might affect children’s movement and interactions. Having applied the Laban work to yoga practice/teaching and to personnel administration for a number of years, her certification project integrated LMA and yoga, exploring stillness as a component of movement (she is a Certified Movement Analyst—CMA). Currently, Esther coordinates professional gatherings and enrichment activities for WACMA (Washington DC Area CMAs) and has served as an Assistant Faculty member in the LMA Certificate Program and an Instructor for Pre-requisite courses. She is also the full-time administrator and a faculty member at Unity Woods Yoga Center, the USA’s largest Iyengar studio.


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