Feel the rhythm
It is exciting and remarkable to see how Jamaica's dance culture has evolved over the years. Even more fascinating is the fact that the deaf community has now become integrally involved in the genre. In recent times, their electrifying performances have been captivating audiences as they move to pulsating rhythms, pleasantly surprising many individuals when they learn that the dancers are, in fact, deaf.
As the curtain came down recently on the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission's (JCDC) National Festival of the Performing Arts Deaf Dance Competition, the audience was left in awe.
In fulfilling its mandate of unearthing, developing, and showcasing the talent and expression of the Jamaican people, the competition encourages - through movement - the development of a sense of rhythm, creative expression, communication of feelings, and helps to build self-confidence.
The students were encouraged to feature various styles, including creative folk, modern contemporary, praise, popular, jazz, and dance drama, with dancers ranging from juniors to adults. Six schools from across the island participated in the competition: Lister Mair Gilby School for the Deaf, St Christopher's School for the Deaf, Caribbean Christian Centre for the Deaf, Jamaica Association for the Deaf (Pre-School), and the May Pen Unit for the Deaf.
The Lister Mair Gilby School for the Deaf won the Dance Skit category for their piece 'Fireworks', while the May Pen Unit for the Deaf won the Popular Dance category with 'March Against Abuse'. St Christopher's School for the Deaf won in the Junior Modern Contemporary category with 'Guardian Angel'.
In the other categories, the Jamaica Association for the Deaf (Pre School) won in the Junior Dance category for the piece 'The Silver Lining', while St Christopher's School for the Deaf pocketed another award for 'No Bully Roun' Here'.
The Lister Mair Gilby High School won the Senior Praise Dance category with a piece titled 'Praises'. In the Senior Dance Drama category, the Jamaica Christian School for the Deaf won with 'Sarah's Story'.
The National Deaf Dance Competition was launched in 2006 for the hearing impaired. The annually staged programme seeks to sensitise the hearing impaired to dance forms, subsequently building ease and confidence in expressing themselves. Residential workshops were organised by the JCDC to equip teachers to provide the necessary support mechanism to prepare their students.
The competition is open to all individuals between the ages of six and 19 years who are enrolled at the nationally accredited institutions for the deaf or hearing impaired.
Director of marketing and public relations at the JCDC, Stephen Davidson, praised the work that teachers and coaches put into preparing the students for the competition.
"It is amazing, each year, to see how these performers move to the various rhythms. I am confident that those in attendance were wowed and fully entertained at the Deaf Dance Festival," Davidson said.
The event was sponsored by the CHASE Fund, Digital Video Concept, and the Jamaica Association for the Deaf.