Deaf dancers defying stigma
For some, the term “deaf dancer” seems like an oxymoron because the ability to hear and move in sync to music is typically regarded as a requisite for dancing.
The hip-hop dance club Redeafination, which comprises mostly of deaf members, however, is turning conventional wisdom on its head.
The group’s deaf dancers groove to the beat by sensing vibrations from music played at high volume, and their artistic talent has not gone unnoticed.
The club was most recently invited to perform at Deaffest, the leading UK deaf-led film and arts festival.
Redeafination was also approached by the National Council of Social Service to be part of its See The True Me campaign in 2018, which celebrated the abilities of persons with disability. Members of the dance club performed in the campaign’s music video, Fire In The Rain, directed by homegrown film-maker Royston Tan.
The recreational dance group, formed in 2008, has 12 members from all walks of life, including students and young professionals.
For Redeafination member Muhammad Ammar Nasrulhaq Abdul Karim, dancing allows him to set his imagination free and express himself. The freelance creative director lost his hearing after coming down with a high fever when he was an infant.
His love for dance started early. He says: “When I was younger, I would imitate the dance moves from Bollywood movies. As I grew older, I would watch Michael Jackson and that was when I felt it was my calling to make dancing my passion.”
For computer science student Patricia Merilo, who was born deaf, it was the K-pop wave that swept her off her feet and got her learning the hip-hop dance moves of K-pop groups.
Despite their swagger on the stage, deaf dancers admit that there are challenges to dancing without hearing.
For example, synchronising moves can be difficult, says Ammar, and deaf dancers must rely on other performers for visual cues on when to execute certain moves. But they take the difficulties in their stride, along with lots of practice and a dose of inspiration.
Student Shariffah Faaiqah Alkaff, who performed with Redeafination at Deaffest, says: “There were a lot of deaf actors, DJs and rappers and they made me realise that I can be who I want to be as long as I don’t give up on myself and my dreams. They motivated me to work even harder and inspired me to be a better person.”
More on Redeafination here.