By Samantha Schumacher
Dance and the Deaf
Most people, when asked, wouldn't consider dance as a possible hobby
for the Deaf or hard of hearing. On the contrary, dance has become a
very popular pastime for many in the Deaf community. Gallaudet University's
"Dance Company, which mounts up to 15 concerts annually, was formed
in 1955." It has been a great success and uses a combination of
American Sign Language and plenty of visual examples. Through this
method, Gallaudet and several other Dance Companies have been able to
create a system for Deaf dancers to learn alongside their fellow
dancers, whether they are Hearing or Deaf (Looseleaf). Dance
has become a great way for members of the Deaf community to
express themselves and connect with other artists.
It is also thought that dance has a great deal of therapeutic value,
especially for the Deaf or hard of hearing. It not only a way to
express emotions, but also a technique to release stress. Dance
creates a healthy environment in which to express fears, explore,
feelings and question beliefs -- activities that have been shown as
beneficial to people regardless of hearing ability (World). It also
expands their social connections, contributing to overall mental,
physical and emotional health.
Going back to plausibility of Deaf people being able to dance, there
are many techniques used by Deaf dancers to stay on the
beat and feel the mood of the music. Since feeling the rhythm of the
music through the floor is impossible with dancing, Deaf dancers
must rely on other indicators. Some claim that they use the
reactions of the crowd, whether that be nodding to the beat or
clapping along with the song, to keep a sense of rhythm and stay on
beat. They may also follow their fellow dancers, who may be Deaf,
hard of hearing or hearing. By watching other dancer's movements and
rhythm, they can keep time and continue with the music. Some hard
of hearing dancers who can hear low sounds are able to build off of
the lower parts in songs and follow along to what they can hear.
Those who can hear the lower tones might also just listen to the
music over and over until they practically have it memorized and
then dance to the song from memory. Much of Deaf dance is built on
visual cues and memorization of the phrasing and beat of whatever
song the dancer is using in performance.
So far we have discussed dancing that has been
choreographed to music, but that isn't always the case. The American
Deaf Dance Company, one of the few touring Deaf dance groups, often
does it's pieces to no music at all. Since dance is simply about the
movement of the body, dance without sound has "[forced] us to
rethink our conception of dance and to see dance clearly as an
autonomous art form, independent of its musical component."
(Bergman) Deaf dance has opened new doors not only for Deaf artists
but also for those who study or just appreciate dance to view it
without any other distractions such as music or singing. It is
Dance is a very complex art form and, as shown, a viable form for
those of any hearing level. In fact, those who can't hear the music
behind have begun an entirely new branch of dance that is pure
movement and grace.
Bergman, E., & National Access Center, W. C. (1981). Arts
Accessibility for the Deaf.
Looseleaf, V. (2008). To Their Own Music: Dancers Who Are Deaf--and
Defying the Odds. Dance Magazine, 82(10), 56-60.
World Federation of the Deaf, R. ). (Italy)., & Alexander Graham
Bell Association for the Deaf, I. C. (1967). Cultural Activities for
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