Can The Deaf Dance?

Several months ago, I spoke to an individual about my decision to write about the art of dance in the deaf culture for a school research project. Her response was baffling to me- a short chuckle followed by a question- “How can deaf people dance if they can’t hear music?” Her response was not atypical, however, as I later found many hearing people asking me if my research topic was plausible… All the more reason to write my essay and share. Are we, as hearing people, limiting the power of music to only the limits of sound?

The impact of music on our lives extends so much further than a sound wave.

Martha Graham once said, “Dance is the hidden language of the soul of the body”. Her words are a powerful statement that brings new meaning to the complexity of music; how it is perceived and how we choose to interpret what music really is. The human body is a beautiful instrument that allows for the absorption of music and dance in a multitude of different ways, and we must open our minds to see the beauty in each sensation. Music and dance are powerful forces that make up the human infrastructure. To enjoy and follow music is not solely for those that can hear a melody, but for those who can feel its impact.

Diverse Techniques For Experiencing Music

Sight

Music is something one must not listen for, but instead, experience. There are a number of ways that we as humans can obtain the force of music. One mean of gathering sound is through sight. Many deaf dancers will practice the art of mimicking (Dance Techniques for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Dancers – Gallaudet University). This skill is highly regarded in the deaf dancing community, as it relies on the individual’s ability to use their vision and capture the movements from another body in motion. Many dancers will allow for intense concentration during a session of detailed choreography. They will follow the claps and body movements to gather the rhythm and feel the direction of the song at hand. They essentially “mimic” their counterparts and reassemble the dance with the help of memory and the absorption of vibrations.

Vibrations

Vibrations are another important factor for deaf dancers to experience music. The different wavelengths produced from a number of diverse instruments can dictate how a deaf dancer consumes them. Many dancers place the head of the speaker system facedown on a hardwood surface. This act permits for clear transfer of vibrations from the song from the speakers straight into the fibers of the floor, allowing for direct contact of bass to the dancer. Professional ballet dancer Nina Falaise paints a very simple picture for us as hearing individuals to understand, “Vibrations move me. There is a difference between a vibration from a violin or a drum”. By collecting the rhythm through bass and unique vibrations dancers are able to gather music in a kinesthetic demeanor.

Low Decibel/Frequency

For some dancers with a profound hearing loss, sounds at an extremely low decibel can also be retrieved through the cochlea, creating a string of sound. By hearing the lower levels of reverberation, many dancers that are hard of hearing can experience music with minimal tone range. This can be enough generated sound for those with hearing aids or for those with a profound level of hearing loss to gather the movement of a song and produce the body movements that flow with the rhythm.

I highly recommend watching the clips below to see music in action!

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/nTnesZvztIg

https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/iJh5symP6d8

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