A Dance for the Deaf at Oakland Ballet's 'Scene & Heard'

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Sharon Kung, Coral Martin, Nina Pearlman rehearsing for Oakland Ballet's spring production, Scene & Heard. (Alan Briskin)

This isn't your typical Swan Lake ballet: Miles Davis, Prince and Herbie Hancock are all part of the soundtrack to a new work premiering at the Oakland Ballet this weekend by Antoine Hunter. It’s a soundtrack that Hunter doesn’t hear, as a deaf dancer and choreographer.

In “Giggling Flame and Roaring Waves,” Hunter shows the journey that deaf people undertake in finding who they are and who they can be in the world. “This piece will reflect about deaf culture, reflecting about communication, that element of open mind," Hunter told us. "Especially aiming to connect with each other. You know what I mean? I really, as a deaf person, I really really feel that it's important to share this story with the world."

Hunter’s piece is full of movements referencing American Sign Language, and he hopes it will turn around preconceptions about deafness. "A lot of people out there don't know about deaf culture," he says, "and feel that it's a curse to be deaf, and so I'm like 'No. It's not a curse.' You know, it doesn't matter if you're from a deaf culture or a disability culture, you know are human. You are beautiful no matter what.”

Oakland Ballet’s Scene & Heard program also includes Bat Abbit’s interpretation of Ethan Fromme, Ramona Kelly and Vincent Chavez’s piece inspired by the Mexican folktale "La Llorona," and more. ‘Scene & Heard’ runs May 31–June 2 at the Odell Johnson Performing Arts Center at Laney College in Oakland. Details here.