ridicuLIST: Deaf People Can’t Dance

Posted by: Staff Writer on Feb. 12, 2014

When Oscar winning Deaf actress, Marlee Matlin, was a contestant on season six of Dancing with the Stars, she impressed us all with her fluid waltz and mambo moves. After that season, the misconception of Deaf people being unable to dance was spun around and thrown out the door by her partner Fabian. She proved to the world, that one doesn’t need to hear to bust out a move on the dance floor.

Have you ever wondered how a Deaf or Hard of Hearing (HH) person dances without hearing a beat?

Gallaudet University and National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) both have a popular Deaf dance program for their students, The Deaf Dance Company, which has been running for many years. Special training and techniques for Deaf and Hard of Hearing dancers can be found on Gallaudet Dance Company’s website. Several examples of techniques that Deaf and HH dancers use:

“The Gallaudet Dancers need many hours of practice in order to develop an inner sense of timing for a specific dance… counting visually helps establish the basic rhythm pattern and facilitates the development of inner rhythm and timing for a particular dance. In addition, when teaching a new dance step, it helps if the instructor gives a sign count for each step, similar to giving a verbal count with hearing dancers. Occasionally, we use a drum to demonstrate the precise rhythm of a piece of music. Often a deaf dancer will use his or her eyes to watch and follow the movement of a fellow dancer who may be able to hear and follow the music.” (Gallaudet Dance Company, found at: http://www.gallaudet.edu/Gallaudet_Dance_Company/Techniques.html)

Just like mainstream high schools, institutes for the Deaf all over the nation traditionally host annual school dances for their students. However, be forewarned, dances are usually eardrum-bursting loud as if you were standing right next to a massive speaker stack at a rock concert. If you ever get lucky enough to attend a Deaf school dance – be sure to bring your ear plugs. Your lovely ears will thank you and the vibrations from the dance floor will be strong enough to get you moving.

How many of our Deaf/HH fans enjoy dancing? 

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