View to equality

View to equality

A series of unusual concerts gives the audience a new way to look at life

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(From top) Wong Jing, at17's Ellen Joyce Loo and Jason Choi were just some of the artists who played in the dark.
(From top) Wong Jing, at17's Ellen Joyce Loo and Jason Choi were just some of the artists who played in the dark.
Photos: Dialogue in the Dark
Last weekend, a dazzling array of Canto-pop singers and musicians staged four special concerts. These first-ever 'Concerts in the Dark' were unusual for one reason: audience members were led to their seats by visually impaired guides to sit in total darkness.

Performances at the 70-minute show at ArtisTree in Quarry Bay explored the themes of sight, communication and self-discovery. The concert opened with a soulful rendition of Stand By Me by female duo at17, singer-songwriter Wong Jing and stage actor Chan Ho-fung.

Some of the city's best loved singers followed, including Joey Yung Cho-yee, Leo Ku Kui-kei, Sammi Cheng Sau-man. Performances alternated between dialogues which expressed ideas of darkness and fear, and songs in every genre from Canto-pop and rock to classical.

The usual glittering dresses and visual effects of most concerts were absent; but as the audience started to rely on their senses of touch, hearing and smell, many were amazed at the impact running water, fresh flowers and grassland carpeting had on their experience. Any initial concern then may have felt quickly disappeared as they relaxed into the interactive environment - the audience even managed to create an 'audio Mexican wave' at the end to thank their guides.

'Our experience in the dark felt like a dream,' says Mandy Ng, a recent graduate. 'But for the visually impaired, their whole life is this dream. It really taught me to treasure the senses that we have. The blind are actually much stronger than we think - they truly aren't the 'disabled' ones.'

Singer Anthony Wong Yiu-ming, who performed at the concert, was especially supportive of the idea behind the show. 'Many of us think that we can see just because we're sighted. But, in a sense, that actually blinds us. In the dark, you can't see what others look like, their skin colour, or even if they're tall, short, fat or thin... You can't be bogged down by questions such as 'Do I look good today?'', he says. 'In essence, we have to be much more trusting and sincere to others in the dark.'

Ng agrees with the singer's insights, and says the concert made her realise that, regardless of physical ability, we all have problems to face in life. 'I learned that many of the problems we face are universal ... If you take a look around you when you're struggling, you'll find that everyone else is struggling too,' she says.

Dialogue in the Dark was founded in Germany by social entrepreneur Andreas Heinke in 1988. His idea was based on his belief that most prejudices against the visually impaired came from ignorance and a lack of interaction with those who were 'different'.

'In the dark, the sighted are suddenly blind, while the blind become the sighted. This role swap makes us rethink our prejudices and stereotypes,' he said. Since then, the idea has spread from Germany to touch 6 million people in 150 countries.

All ticket proceeds from Concert in the Dark went to Dialogue in the Dark Hong Kong. The local branch opened in February, and shares the same aims of promoting social inclusion, increasing the public's understanding of social issues and bridging the gap between the visually impaired and the sighted community.

It provides jobs for 50 visually impaired people, and holds regular workshops for members of the public in its Mei Foo studio. A typical tour lasts 75 minutes and costs HK$60 (HK$120 for adults). Visit www.dialogue-in-the-dark.hk/html/en/index.html for more details.

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