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.

Additional Information/References

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:

  • Allen, Anne and Allen, George.
    • Everyone Can Win. EPM Publications, 1988.
    • “Dancing to Her Own Song: The Jessica Brown Story.” Capital D Magazine. Fall 2002.
  • Benari, Naomi. Inner Rhythm – Dance Training for the Deaf. Gordon and Breach Publishing Group. 1995.
  • Corpus Christi: Caller-Times. Oct. 23, 2003. Article by Cassandra Hinojosa. “Music in Motion – Silent Precision.” Page B1.
  • Clason, Debbie. (2016). “The Passion Behind Nyle DiMarco’s Dancing with the Starts Success.” Healthy Hearing, May 19, 2016.
  • Clevenger, Rachel. (2015). “Deaf Dancers Celebrate Sixty Years of Dance.” Private University Products and News., May 8, 2015.
  • Doniger, Myra & Judith Evans. (1979). “Ballet for Deaf Children.” The Deaf American, March, 1979.
  • Foghorn Campus Edition. Oct. 21, 2003. Article by Laurel Kanipe. “Gallaudet comes to DMC – Deaf performers will surprise audiences with their ability to dance.” Page 4.
  • Freeman, Marcia. (2002). “The Language of Dance.” Odyssey. Spring/Summer 2002.
  • Garcia-Barrio, Constance. (1983). “Signs of Joy: Peter Wisher’s Dance Techniques for the Deaf.” Dance Teacher Now. November-December, 1983.
  • Gill, S. & Hottendorf, D. (1995). Celebration of Deaf Dance. (DVD). Washington, D.C.: Gallaudet T.V. & Media Production.
  • Gill, Hottendorf, D. (1989). Fundamental Dance Signs. (DVD). Washington, D.C.: Gallaudet Press.
  • Green, Lauren. (2009) “Enter in Silence – Gallaudet University’s Hearing-Impaired Dancers Find Internal Rhythm.” Dance Teacher. April 2009. Page 62.
  • Hilbok, Bruce. Silent Dancer. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1981.
  • Hottendorf, D. and Gill-Doleac, S. (2005) “Deaf Dancers Celebrate 50 Years of Dance! Teaching Dance to Deaf and Hard of Hearing Students: The Gallaudet University Way.” Dancer Magazine. March 2005, 42 – 45.
  • Hottendorf, D.
    • “Mainstreaming Deaf and Hearing Children in Dance Classes.” The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation and Dance. November/December, 1989.
    • Sign n’ Sweat.” (videotape.) Washington, D.C.: Gallaudet T.V. and Media Production. 1987.
  • Kaplan, Jennifer. (2011). “Welcoming Visual Learners.” Dance Studio Life. November 2011, 90 – 92.
  • Looseleaf, Victoria. (2008.) “To Their Own Music: Dancers who are Deaf – and Defying the Odds.” Dance Magazine. October, 2008.
  • Love, Jennifer. (2004). “The Joy of Movement – Using Yoga to Reach those with Special Needs.” Frederick Magazine. February, 2004.
  • Marcus, Lilit. (2017). “You Don’t Have to Hear the Music to Get Down.”. Pacific Standard, June 14, 2017.
  • McConnell, Lynne.
    • “Dance Fever.” Gallaudet Today. Spring, 1988.
    • “Dancing Through the Barriers.” Preview. Fall, 1991.
  • Pittsburg Tribune. Oct. 29, 1995. Article by Marilyn Posner. “Lord of the Dance: Peter Wisher Spoke the Language of the Deaf Through Dance.” Sunday Supplement – “Focus.”
  • Radsken, Jill. (2017). “Deaf Dancers Feels the Beat.” Harvard Gazette, December 14, 2017.
  • Reading Eagle. April 24, 1988. Article by Beverly Groff. “Gallaudet Troupe Dances to a Different Drummer.” Sunday Supplement – “Arts and Entertainment.”
  • Ritzel, Rebecca. (2020). “Dancing While Deaf.” Dance Magazine, January 1,
  • Roman, Adylia. (1991). “Gallaudet University.” Dance Teacher Now. July/August, 1991.
  • Rosen, Lillie F. (1979). “Joffrey Ballet’s New Horizon: The School You Can Hear With Your Heart.” Dance Magazine. September, 1979.
  • Tsubata, Kate. (2020). “Dancing Joy” Film/DVD. Hyattsville, MD. Family Wave Productions,
  • Washington Post. August 1, 2000; Article by Michael Leahy “Soundlessly Soaring: Deaf Va. Dancer Is Transported by Instinct, Heart.” Page A1.
  • Wisher, Peter. (1974). “Therapeutic Values of Dance Education for the Deaf.” Focus on Dance VII. Reston: The American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.

Unpublished Materials

  • Manco, Maryellen. Breaking the Sound Barriers: Involving Hearing Impaired in Dance Programs. Unpublished M.A. thesis. George Washington University, 1987.
  • Roman, Adylia. ( — Interview — with Dr. Diane Hottendorf and Ms. Sue Gill). Unpublished Ph.D. thesis. Columbia University, 1989.

Teaching Music to Deaf Students

  • Andreano, Emily. (1987). “Evelyn Glennie has a Passion for Percussion,” NTID Focus. Winter/Spring 1987.
  • Brown, K. and Denney, L. Music Use in Elementary and Middle School Classrooms for the Deaf. University of Tennessee, 1997. Read here.
  • Hummel, Cora Jo. (1971). “The Value of Music in Teaching Deaf Students.” The Volta Review. April 1971.
  • 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.

Contact Us

Gallaudet Dance Company

Field House - Delta Zeta Dance Studio

(518) 605-3585

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