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Redeafining what you need to hit the dance floor

Dance troupe with deaf members proud to 'represent' in Stronger Together music video

Even without the ability to hear, members of dance crew Redeafination remain masters of timing and technique.

Feeling vibrations in the floor through their bodies establishes the beat of the music.

Visual cues such as clapping go a long way, as dancers also count beats to stay in formation – so that when the vibrations can’t be felt, the dancing would still carry on. 

“Music isn't always about being heard, but also felt, and through vibrations we internalise the music into the core of our bodies,” explained troupe member Kuga Priya, 21.

“Counting is very important for us, even if we have no vibrations, counting will never ever change, and we use it all the time,” added dancer Shariffah Faaiqah, 21.

Formed in 2008, Redeafination is an independent dance crew for the Deaf that aims to promote deaf awareness as well as nurture performing arts talents within the community.

The group, which numbers a dozen dancers from ages 16 to 38, have been awarded numerous accolades and performed at events such as the President’s Star Charity 2015 and 8th ASEAN Para Games.

Featured in Singapore’s 2020 National Day Parade (NDP) music video Everything I am, the crew made its return in this year’s NDP video Stronger Together.

Speaking to TNP through a sign language interpreter, the Redeafination dance members said they were thrilled to get another opportunity to represent the deaf community at the national level.

“We know it’s not easy to be recognised as we are a minority in Singapore… We want to let the world know that our disability does not limit our abilities,” said dancer Patricia Merilo.

Ms Merilo, 25, who joined the dance crew in 2013, always had a strong interest in dance but did not know a dance crew for the Deaf existed.

“I was so excited that I could develop my talent in a safe space where I would be dancing with people who are like me, and won’t feel alone,” she said.

Being part of the NDP video this year came with its set of challenges for the troupe. 

“It was very challenging this time because the music was fast,” said Ms Merilo, who added that members had to practise on their own time a fair bit until they could catch up.

Then there were also the inevitable communication problems with the filming crew. 

Ms Sharrifah said: “But (the crew) always helped us and showed us the cues… The other performers also helped us with the beats, and everyone was helping each other.

“All of us had to keep repeating (the dance), and retaking the video many times until night.”

Still, the inclusion of sign language in the music video was an affirmation of sorts. “It shows how happy and comfortable we are in expressing ourselves,” said Ms Sharrifah.

Troupe member Lee Yong Cheong, 22, hopes the group helps clear the common misconception that the Deaf cannot enjoy music. 

“Each of us may have different hearing levels, but it all comes down to training twice as hard compared with hearing artistes,” he said. 

“We use our eyes as ears to guide our moves. Sight allows us to catch up to other performers and that's how we survive in the dance industry.”

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