deaf can dance


The Philippines — 2016

In May 2016 Kinetic Collective’s Erika Goldsmith flew to Bacolod City in the Philippines on an invitation from fellow KC member Emily Boyd to come and check out the fantastic work being done at the Welcome Home Foundation Inc. (WHFI), where Emily worked as part of the Australian Volunteers for International Development Program (AVID). WHFI is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation serving the deaf people of the Philippines in three main ways: education, ministry and outreach. While visiting, Erika spent a week getting her hands dirty volunteering in the garden under Emily’s supervision and facilitating Hip-Hop workshops with the local deaf young people, culminating in the creation of a performance for the foundation’s 30-year anniversary in December.

Although familiar with facilitating dance and movement workshops cross-culturally and with limited verbal communication, Erika had never worked with a large, predominantly hearing-impaired group before. The idea was to teach and create a lyrical Hip-Hop piece inspired by sign language. Some staff from WHFI chose a popular song and using Emily’s newly developed knowledge of sign language as well as the participants’ incredible creativity and pre-existing dance talent, together we created a performance. KC member Stephanie Stainlay arrived in the Philippines in time for the final rehearsals and to assist with filming.

Erika was inspired by these positive, energetic and passionate young people. Their focus and affinity for non-verbal communication transferred seamlessly to dance and performing, and it turned out that sign language could be easily manipulated to create meaningful lyrical Hip-Hop phrases. The use of voice was incorporated into the performance at the last minute and had a magical effect on the audience who may have forgotten that the deaf still have voices they can use!

When it was time for Erika to depart the participants surprised her with a truly overwhelming goodbye party including a thank-you dance they had secretly prepared with the help of Edgar, the hearing-able father of our youngest deaf participant and a Hip-Hop enthusiast! Kinetic Collective presented the group with certificates to honour their participation and contribution, we all drank delicious Guyabano (custard apple) smoothies and the party was closed with a sign language song.