It’s hard to think of a dimension of el Sistema that demonstrates the program’s ongoing commitment to inclusiveness, accessibility and social change better than its work in Special Needs. As far as initiatives go, there are some notable successes, such as the White Hands Choirs , and some fascinating but incomplete ideas or works in progress, like this video shows.
My contact with these programs was fairly limited, and as is common within Venezuela, each núcleo had different students needs to be addressed and thus addressed them differently. For that reason I’m loath to make generalizations about the work in this area, although I can say with some confidence that the White Hands Choirs used fairly standardized manual choreography in their performances. I do want to share the following video from my most recent visit to Acarigua, footage which is notable for the fact that the presentation is so competent that if you were blind you would find it indistinguishable from conventionally-abled performances. In this instance, however, it’s the musicians who are vision-impaired.
Somewhat tangentially, this is a good opportunity for me to reintroduce the video archive I maintain. In my fairly extensive work nationally and internationally with el Sistema, I’ve found that over-romanticism and over-generalization of information is a persistent problem. As I’ve mentioned before, there’s a tendency to take one instance in one núcleo and extrapolate nationwide practice of the same, when nothing could be further from the truth.
Okay, I generalize too, but the international movement is growing up, moving beyond its over-emotional adolescence into a more intellectually-rigourous maturity. As part of my own efforts to make hard data available, I’ve been compiling this video archive of footage from Venezuela. It’s not particularly interesting at times – and that’s the point. I’d walk into a núcleo and shoot 3 minutes of footage in the first room I walked into (never more than 3’10”). The result is something that is as random as possible, sometimes quite boring, but sometimes quite revealing too. The problem with shooting only interesting footage is that it becomes something of an “incident report”, reflecting only the exceptional, and not the day-to-day. I’ve made an effort to label the videos as objectively as possible, conscious that the titles themselves can frame opinion.
Over the next few weeks I’m going to re-embed the videos in the blog, because in their current format there’s little opportunity to collate comments on them, and it’s the commentary and the consensus that derives from it that will actually be important and valuable.