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Belfast dancer Helen Hall gives insight into the world of visual impairment – The Irish News

BELFAST dancer, choreographer and teacher Helen Hall is inviting audiences to explore her life as a visually impaired person in her new dance show Inside the Speaker.

The solo dance performance, which is opening this year’s Bounce Festival is an intimate and provocative solo performance which will address and challenge the way in which visually impaired people experience the world.

Using an accompanying musical and narrative soundscape and flash lighting, the show will take audiences on a journey of the senses, to experience music and dance differently and explore what it means to dance.

Helen started having difficulty with her eyesight at the age of 10 and after many tests was diagnosed with Stargardt disease, an inherited juvenile macular degeneration. The progressive vision loss associated with Stargardt disease is caused by the death of photoreceptor cells in the central portion of the retina called the macula (the area of the eye responsible for sharp central vision for tasks like reading, watching television, and looking at faces).

The progression of sight loss and the ability to distinguish details and shape in Stargardt disease is variable, often decreasing slowly at first, accelerating and then levelling off. This is the case with Helen, who has no further deterioration in her sight during this past five years.

The vision loss is not correctable with glasses, contact lenses or surgery, though there are several promising avenues of research, including gene and stem cell therapies.

Despite her visual impairment, Helen went on to get involved in community arts, first attending dance classes at the age of 16 at the Crescent Arts Centre, where she now teaches herself.

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