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Art and Media Design
Gallaudet Dance Company
Dance Techniques Taught to Deaf Performers
Field House - Delta Zeta Dance Studio
Many people have the misconception that deaf people “hear” by feeling vibrations through the floor.
How is this possible, especially if a person is moving and jumping so that they do not keep in continuous contact with the floor?
What if the floor is not wood, but solid concrete?
The Gallaudet Dancers need many hours of practice in order to develop an inner sense of timing for a specific dance. Some dancers who have some residual hearing may pick up cues from the music to assist them in knowing where they are supposed to be in a dance, but this does not happen the first time they learn a new dance, but rather after countless hours of practice and counting all the movements in a dance step.
Whether the dancer can use his or her residual hearing will also depend on his or her type of hearing loss (high or low frequency loss) and the music (bass or treble tones). Many deaf dancers can discriminate bass tones better than treble.
When a dance instructor is teaching a new dance routine to deaf performers, 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.
It is important to note that the Gallaudet Dance Company remains “in time” with or without music. This is a parallel experience to that of an experienced musician, especially a drummer, who has a highly developed sense of timing.
In summary, when teaching dance to deaf students, the most effective technique is to count visually, use a high quality sound system, and communicate through signs.
Due to the tremendous volume of requests concerning dance training for deaf and hard of hearing dancers, our research indicates that the most frequently asked questions can be answered with our videotapes and the other reference materials listed below:
McConnell, Lynne. (1989). “There’s Music in the Air.” Gallaudet Today. Winter 1989-90.
Please also check the Library of Congress.
Visit the Theatre Arts Program for more information in regards to majoring in theatre or minoring in dance at Gallaudet University
The books and magazines that are listed above contain additional valuable information that you may be seeking. For more information on the Dance Minor, please visit this link.
Gallaudet University, chartered in 1864, is a private university for deaf and hard of hearing students.
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