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I’m here at the Bay Area International Deaf Dance
Festival 2019! I’ve just finished my
heartfelt panel discussion with different dancers, mime
and theatre artists from different countries-
Columbia, El Salvador, Jamaica, Taiwan, and many more! And from the United States as
well! Now, I have one question for
them: Why should more Deaf people be
involved in dance and theatre? This festival is absolutely
awesome! It has so many deaf talents in
arts and theatre from different cultures. I’m from Jamaica and it’s so
cool being here with other Deaf artists- You own a company in Jamaica,
right? Yes. It’s called, “Pah”?
Yes. It’s called “Pah Deaf Dance”. A festival that involves
artists from other countries can actually happen. Sharing on social media can be
so powerful. Agreed.
Absolutely. Thanks so much! I moved from Taiwan to Mexico
to study dancing, and then returned to Taiwan
where I spent my time figuring out how to grow from
my experience. I even encouraged and taught
others how to dance. I also promoted and gave talks
on how we all can do better, how we can have open
dialogues, and go from there. So the important key is, that they know they can find
and build the confidence. Yes, the most important thing
is to keep trying. Keep trying and you’ll defeat
the obstacles. Deaf people are artistically
visual. Yes, because when it comes to
arts and dance, they do have a wide range of
skills. I’d like to see more support
for Deaf people, so they can advance more in
these fields and inspire more Deaf artists
out there. Can you share with us about the oppression you experienced
in Columbia, and how you broke the barriers and showed them
Deaf people can dance? Yeah, when I was 15, I was
really closed minded, because my parents were overprotective
of me since I’m deaf, and I’m woman, so I couldn’t
do anything. It’s our culture. So, I was little jealous of my
sister because she was able to go to different places. I
wanted to do that too. But luckily, my friends asked
me to join dancing with them. I wanted to try it, so I went
with them. After dancing, I asked the
instructor can I join the group? He said I couldn’t because I’m
deaf. I felt oppressed. That motivated me to go to
another dancing group and asked to join them. They said
yes, I could. I thought about going to the
university, maybe a dancing school there. When I went there, I was
shocked because there was an interpreter next
to my hearing teacher. I was shocked because I’ve
never experienced that before. I was born two hours away from
the university. I grew up with oralism. I
never learned sign language. There weren’t a lot of
opportunities for me, but it was amazing that the
university provided an interpreter for me, so I
could understand my teacher. I felt very inspired. I didn’t know any Russian sign
language at that time, but I knew international sign
language. I knew Russian writing and
international sign language. I came here because I saw
Antoine and Zahna’s Facebook Page about the
festival. I asked my girlfriend if she
wanted to go there with me. We asked others in Russia, but
nobody was interested. We thought both of us should
go there anyway. We finally linked with
Antoine, and he said, “Please come to America!” That
was two years ago. We said, fine we’ll go. It’s
so amazing to see everybody communicating with each other
in sign language. I only knew how to speak a few
English words, so I struggled a bit at first,
but I got better at signing each day I spent
with you all. I felt so free! There’s no instructions for
deaf children in classrooms. We’ve tried to reach out to
different schools. More schools should include
this type of activities in the classrooms for their
children too. Yes, if you teach the children
and show them all the things that deaf
people can do, teach them about deaf culture,
deaf community, deaf world; how we work
together around the world, they’d realize how much we can
do. They’d want to help out and be
involved. They’d want to go out in the
world and support us and work together with us. I didn’t do any rap during
growing up, not during my whole life, and… Doing rap has became my life,
and my fire, and my identity. I enjoyed showing our Latino
culture. So, I hoped that I can spread
the awareness, and it’s made significant
impact on people so far. I felt really good about my
art. It gave me a hope that more of us will
collaborate together and continue spreading the
awareness about our culture to all over the place, north,
south, other countries, etc. Deaf dancers came up to me and
told me about the barriers they were facing and how they
can overcome them. So, I began giving workshops
on how to form their own companies. It can be for both
hearing and deaf artists. I shared my support and
encouragement with them, and when hearing people came
to watch their performances, they were beyond inspired by
what they saw. They realized that if Deaf
people can dance, they can dance too.p And when Deaf artists saw that
inspiration, they knew they have to get together and
start working as a core team. They empowered each other that
Deaf artists can do it. That group grew into something
bigger, and it’s still growing not just in Japan, but all
over the world. We don’t feel like our job’s
done. We still have much more work
to do, until we get old and we’ll
pass it on to our next generation. They’ve shared their stories,
and I noticed many of them became emotional and teary at
the end. Why do you think this festival
meant so much to them, and to you both, who founded
this event? I got involved with this six
years ago. The first time I was involved,
it was awe-inspiring, because I always grew up as
the only deaf dancer. I felt alone in the world, and
then I came here, I felt inspired and thrilled
to see other people like me. So, the reason it’s so
important to them is because it’s so important to me to
find your family in this world that understands and shares
your mutual feelings. Sometimes the deaf community
doesn’t share the same passion, same motivation. But when you find deaf people
who feel the same as you do, you instantly connect with
them. That’s why it’s important to me. Dance saved my life. I didn’t understand the
expression through words. But when I danced, it totally
saves my life. I didn’t understand my
connection to the world, I almost killed myself. When I started dancing, I felt
it understood me, it helped me understand my
connection to this world, and it healed me. It also can heal each other. I realized we need to have a
place to express our own voices, to use our own gifts. All of
us have them. All of us have voices, all of
us deserve to be heard. It’s really important. You are loved. Through your artistic
expressions. That’s you. Captioned by


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