Billy Read


Ariel Fung will be working on Billy Read’s second stage of R & D, about a place in the near future where Sign Language is outlawed

Following Billy Read’s Unlimited R & D Commission Somebody’s Watching Me in 2017. Billy Read has successfully received a grant for Arts Council England for a second stage of R & D titled, Sign Criminal.



Sign Criminal R & D by Billy Read

Billy Read is a Deaf street dancer awarded an Unlimited International Collaboration R&D Commission in 2017. It was a highly ambitious activity delivering a startling performance for Deaf and hearing audiences. This proposal to R&D a new dance work will action the findings and recommendations of the evaluation of the Unlimited Commission and enable Billy Read to demonstrate artistic leadership, explore use of drone technology, to take on role of choreographer and writer; to blend dance and sign language together to tell a love story about a dystopian future.

Billy Read Biography

In 2011 Billy Read founded the deaf dance crew Def Motion. By 2013 the company was dancing at CLIN D’OEIL The European Deaf Arts Festival in Reims, France. In 2014 Billy Read began to work with Opera Circus and was a  collaborating artist for 4 years on  “The Complete Freedom of Truth” project, where he taught dance and created performances with young people from 7 European countries.

Billy’s interest in making dance shows that deal with oppression and appeal to young audiences is informed by this work. In September 2015, he made a new street dance show involving 30 people for the Birmingham Weekender Festival. Billy has a strong network of International Deaf Promotors and regularly works abroad, and collaborates with deaf dancers. In the same year, he made new work with Antoine Hunter of Urban Jazz Company in the USA and presented new work at The Bay Area Deaf Dance Festival.  In recognition of the disparity of opportunity for deaf people in the mainstream, he supports emerging deaf dancers here in Uk and abroad. In 2016, Billy Read received Arts Council funding to collaborate with Giulia Marchetti who is based in Italy and is trained in a popular Indian classical dance style. The twenty-minute dance show was promoted to Deaf Indian and Pakistani audiences and young people. “Like Mirabai”  used British Sign Language to tell a story and fused Indian dance with street dance. In 2017 Billy Read received an UNLIMITED International R&D award, that was produced by mac Birmingham and Deaf Explorer. It was a collaboration with Hong Kong-based Street Dancer Ariel Fung.

Project Description of second phase of R & D

Billy Read with Rinkoo Barpaga who is going to support Billy throughout the process of Sign Criminal, making it a brave political piece of dance by a Deaf artist

R&D a dance theatre show set in a dystopian future.  Billy will reveal the vulnerability of Deaf sign language users as a result of advances in technology and surveillance. The theme of oppression of a poorly understood minority culture will be explored in a love story aimed at young audiences in the hope they identify with the plight of the Deaf community. Consistently, during each week of the R&D,  Billy will work for one day in the studio with Street Dancer Nathan Marsh to refine his dance style. The aim is that over the course of the R&D Billy takes on the teachings of a street dancer and becomes a confident street dance choreographer so he can bring the physicality and nuance of Street dance into his work that will blend story, sign language, & lens based digital media.

Portrait Charlie Swinbourne
Billy Read’s inspiring writer Charlie Swinbourne

Billy will use the structure of regular weekly sessions with Nathan Marsh to plan sessions with creative people; beginning with writer Charlie Swinbourne, who will be complemented by Deaf dramaturge Mathew Gurney ( Theatre Ad Infinitum.) Working with deaf film-maker Rinkoo Barpaga using Drone, who will also Mentor Billy Read. Billy will devise dance pieces using roving surveillance cameras and stream interactive videos to Deaf dancers. Billy wants to work with Deaf dancers from England & Europe and will use his story to audition & cast dancers.  The end of the R&D will see Billy Read as artistic director equipped with the basis of a new form of dance and ready for collaboration with Taiko drummer Nao Masuda and composer Chris Bartholomew.

Professional Development of Billy Read

Jo Carr, Theatre Programmer at mac said of  “Somebody’s Watching Me” that there were two shows emerging out of the UNLIMITED R&D and both really strong.  Using Deaf oppression as a metaphor for surveillance and social control in the future takes a contemporary theme and makes a unique story that is both personal and political. The second stage of R&D will provide Billy Read with an opportunity to take more risks, gain more choice and control and take on greater responsibility for the artistic outcome.  Billy will be at the forefront of the artistic process. To do this Billy has planned the activity in a different way to the Unlimited R&D with more time for Billy to work 1 to 1 with artists.  Billy wants to gain skills and feel confident that he can meet the requirements of an artistic leader on a project on the scale of “Somebody’s Watching Me”.  To do this Billy wants to equip himself for the task of leadership by developing all the choreography.  In the second phase of the R & D Billy’s artistic goal is to use dance as the pivotal art form so his skill base is at the centre of the creative process, enabling him to demonstrate his artistic leadership. In addition, Billy wants the story, sign language and digital media to be pinned to the choreography, blending the art forms in a new way for dance audiences that is able to challenge the dance art form, making a signature project that will transform thinking in the dance sector about deafness and use of BSL.

Billy Read will reach audiences with his R & D

26 th September 2018, performances at Deaf Cultural Centre

Nao Masuda will bring her unique visual style to Billy Read’s dance

Billy Read will work with Deaf Explorer to maximise their networks in Birmingham and West Midlands to involve young Deaf people as audiences for his R&D, with time slots for performances that enable young Deaf people to attend.

Please contact to find out about the performances on 26 September 2018