Deaf dancers at a Derby school feel the beat

A trio of deaf street dancers who have worked all over the world have been teaching young people at Derby’s Royal School for the Deaf how to express themselves through dance.

The Billy Read Project has been working with students at the Ashbourne Road School to help them understand how to feel the beat through vibrations and look at the visual movement of dance.

Billy Read, Ariel Fung and Chris Fonseca have performed all over the world merging sign language, facial expression and dance to inspire deaf people.

The Billy Read Project has been working with students at Royal School for the Deaf in Derby to help them understand how to feel the beat through vibrations and look at the visual movement of dance.

Ariel is a trained dancer who studied ballet, jazz and contemporary, Billy is self-taught and Chris is a deaf dancer and teacher who has performed internationally and featured in an award-winning advert for Smirnoff.

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Chris said: “I became deaf through meningitis when I was two years old. I started listening to music through friends. I could feel the beat through my Cochlear implant and I’d look up the lyrics to understand the words.

“I taught myself how to dance, just through repetition and practising at first. Then I decided that I wanted to improve my skills but having no deaf role models made it really difficult.

“I am determined to change hearing people’s perspective about deaf people and show that they can do anything except hear. And I enjoy working with young people. There’s obviously a lot of hearing role models for anyone who wants to be a dancer, but now, I think we need to have deaf dance role models too.”

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Pupils at the school are keen performers with a hugely successful signing choir and a drama club which regularly meets after school.

Headteacher Helen Shepherd said: “Dance can actually be quite natural for deaf children, because they are very visual and more attuned to body movement.

“The workshop helped the children to sense music through vibrations – much the same vibrations as a hearing person will sense in a loud concert. Though the average hearing person may not pay much attention to this, deaf people are highly sensitive to the slightest vibration.

“The children thoroughly enjoyed the experience of working with the dancers and introducing our students to fantastic role models like Ariel, Chris and Billy is a key part of the work we do at school.”

ENDS

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