I don’t consider myself to have a hearing loss. I was born profoundly deaf, so if I never had hearing in the first place, I never lost anything. So I don’t describe my deafness as a “hearing loss”. I was born deaf to a hearing family. No one else in my family is deaf. My deafness, or the cause of it is a bit of a mystery. My mother wasn’t sick during pregnancy and I didn’t have an illness. The doctors said it’s likely to have been genetic but we don’t know for sure.
Dancing makes me feel alive. It’s exhilarating. I am a movement junkie, I love movement and being physical, pushing my body to its limits. But dancing is also nurturing and replenishing. It keeps my mind sharp, my senses heightened, my muscles and bones strong and toned, it calms my heart, and it keeps me sane. It is very challenging, physically and mentally. Sometimes, it’s exhausting and frustrating. My body feels different everyday, dancing keeps you connected with your body and mind. Sometimes, I feel tired, heavy, disoriented and my body doesn’t do what I want it to do and thoughts can get in the way. But other times, I feel strong, free and pure joy. One of the things I love about dancing is that it demands your full presence and to be in the moment.
The action of dancing is very powerful. I think its power is underestimated and sometimes devalued. Society, in general, views dancing as more of a hobby when really what it is the study of movement and physical expression. Dancing has the potential to change lives and it’s a way for people to exist in this world.
I wouldn’t say music and sound isn’t relevant to dancing. It IS relevant. Music and sound has its place in dancing and performance. Silence too. Music and sound are only one of the many elements involved in dance. In most, if not all, of the dance projects I was involved in we created material/choreography without music. It is often added later. When we create choreography it often comes from our bodies and the choreographic tasks given to us, rather than as a reaction to music. That said, because of my deafness, my relationship with dance in connection to music might be different. Dancer and choreographer James Welsby said this: “Identity is a key aspect of being an artist” My deafness is a big part of my identity. So there is no denying my deafness having a significant influence on my dancing and my arts practice. I enjoy music, I enjoy going to warehouse parties and clubs where I can feel the bass and move to the music, that is a totally different experience from being in the dance studio where I don’t feel the music as much. It is very important for me to be able to feel the music in performances. While I cannot hear the nuances in the music such as specific instruments or lyrics, feeling the heavy beats of the music gives me energy and keeps me connected to the choreography and the act of performing.
I think it’s more about our relationship to rhythm rather than music. As dancers, deaf or hearing, we are required to have a sophisticated understanding of rhythm – natural and man-made – such as the rhythms of breathing and how it changes the dynamics of movement.
I started dancing when I was 6 years old until I was about 13 years old. I blame teenage rebellion for why I stopped. I also didn’t believe that I could actually be a dancer because I am deaf. I started dancing again when I was about 20 and realised how much I loved and missed it. I did a Bachelor of Dance and the rest is history. Dancing is now my career and my dream has come true. You have to be truly passionate about dancing; otherwise there is just no point. Dancing is not an easy career path. It doesn’t roll in the dough. But I would say this to Deaf people that wish to achieve anything. Don’t let Deafness deter you from your dreams and talents. There will be barriers for sure and sometimes you will want to give up, but if you are on the path you are meant to be on things will flow.