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Pointers for Instructors Teaching Deaf Dance Part 1: Top 10 Guidelines

deaf dance class in progressWe have received requests from guest instructors as well as several email enquiries from other parts of the world (!) to share on how we conduct classes for Deaf. What is the best way for the Deaf to learn dance?

We might not have the perfect answer. Here, we will share what has proven to be effective for us so far. The following guide is also what we send to our guest instructors who are teaching Deaf Dancers for the first time.

This guide is a collaborative effort of Redeafination’s instructors and members based on our own experience in Deaf Dance training. This guide is based on learning points from continuous feedback sessions, culture exchange with other Deaf and Hearing performers and exploring and honing the best practices that are effective for our integrated crew (which consists of a majority of Deaf dancers of varying profiles). We intend to update this guide with Redeafination’s future experiences and explorations with teaching Deaf dancers.

However, this is not meant to be an universal guide on working with all Deaf groups. We welcome similar guides from other groups, which would develop Deaf Dance further.

  1. Speak in a clear and regular tone of voice. There is no need to exaggerate your volume or speak too slowly.
  2. Try to use more visual gestures, body language, facial expressions and movements rather than just words to communicate your point.
  3. Always ensure dancers are able to see your face and lips. Do not cover your mouth when you speak.
  4. Check that the volume of the music is ok for the dancers before beginning.
  5. Visually clap or gesture the tempo of the music for dancers to internalize the speed and tempo.
  6. Give visual cues by clapping down 5678 before the first move starts.
  7. Break down and teach the choreography by counts rather than beats. If required to break down a complicated beat, visually demonstrate the beat first by clapping or gesturing.
  8. For dancers that have difficulty internalising the beats and counts, you may need to tap on their arm or shoulder to demonstrate.
  9. Pick up and familiarize yourself with basic signs and gestures for common class terms like “again”, “from the top”, “mark”, “full out” etc. You can ask any of the members to demonstrate the sign to you.
  10. If you need to make a long explanation or have difficulty getting a particular point across, ask for an interpreter and one of our hearing members will step forward to help.

These are the top 10 things that any instructor can immediately start doing to modify their class and teaching to cater to Deaf dance students. For a more thorough explanation of the guidelines, stay tuned for Part 2 to understand what else you can do to make Dance classes more inclusive of Deaf dancers!

UPDATE: Part 2 is out! Read it here

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