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Fish dance
when they are
not sleeping

Fish dance when they are not sleeping (Opera for the Deaf) is an immersive interdisciplinary opera performance based on a collaboration between two cultures or worlds, the ones who use voice and the ones who use gestures to communicate and create. It is a poetic, surreal vision of the underwater world of strange fish-like creatures encountering a group of humanoid travellers from the future. The meeting of strangers takes place between the unreal world of a dream, with blurred, bended forms, eluding reason and logic, and the hyper-realist raw rationalist world.

This performance is partly an attempt to understand the frustration of Deaf people resulting from their misunderstanding by hearing people, and partly the creation of a space in which both these worlds and types of perception as well as methods of communication intertwine and influence each other. Part of the libretto is created by Ilse Jobse, a Dutch Deaf poet, singer and actress. New technologies (motion sensors, sound and light sensors programmed for “audiovisual translation”, sound and video processing) as well as vibrations, rhythms and choreography – all contribute to an entirely new and unique artistic language.

Futurists opens the doors of the theater to the group most excluded from it: the deaf. There are 1.5 million people in the Netherlands who are deaf or hard of hearing. Of this group, about 30,000 people depend on sign language. Virtually none of them ever go to the theater. Why is that?

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Dutch National Opera
ENOA (European Network of Opera Academies)
Innovation: Lab / Theater Utrecht


Artistic direction
Jerzy Bielski and Thomas Brand
Concept, composition, stage directing, libretto
Jerzy Bielski
Dramaturgy, video, visuals, light design
Thomas Brand
Choreography, dramaturgy
Sandra Abouav
Audio programming, live electronics
Tatiana Rosa
Ilse Jobse
Deaf actor
Ali Shafiee
Deaf dancer
Dennis Massar
Deaf dancer
Sharon Wesseling
Deaf dancer
Pawel Moleda
Voice (soprano)
Olga Siemienczuk
Paetzold recorder
Juho Myllyla
Thomas Brand, Kim Krijnen

Supported By

Cultuurloket DigitALL, De Nationale Opera, ENOA

This project is a result of the international competition by ENOA (European Network of Opera Academies, ‘Opera Creation Journey’), which Futurists. It is being developed through a series of labs at the Dutch National Opera and Innovation Lab / Theatre Utrecht. The premiere is planned for the first half of 2025.

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