How do you say dance in sign language

Dancer Uses Sign Language in New Alvin Ailey Virtual Season

NEW YORK - For Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's first ever virtual season, a dancer and choreographer with a shared experience of partial deafness find a new way to make their artistry even more inclusive.

While helping to choreograph a new work, Yusha-Marie Sorzano wondered about including American Sign Language.

What You Need To Know
  • The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre is having it's first virtual season with works filmed around NYC including Wave Hill in the Bronx, and The Woolworth Building in Manhattan
  • They'd never met before but guest choreographer Yusha-Maria Sorzano and Dancer Samantha Figgins are both partially deaf and worked together to include American Sign Language into a new dance called "Testament"
  • The new work, "Testament" was a collaborative effort between Associate Artistic Director Matthew Rushing, Company Member Clifton Brown, and Former Company Member Yusha-Marie Sorzano
  • The entire season is a celebrations of Alvin Ailey's classic work Revelations and his belief that dance could the African-American experience and be a form of peaceful protest

"I have hearing loss in both of my ears and so I have always been advised to get hearing aids but they were always too expensive for me to get when I was younger, so I just went through my career as a performing artist without them," said Sorzano.




She found an ally and soloist in Ailey dancer Samantha Figgins.

"I'm deaf fully in one ear and same as Yusha, hearing aids were too expensive when I was younger. I was able to just go through my life without hearing aids and make it to this amazing place," said Figgins, on a joint Zoom with Sorzano.

Figgins’ solo is part of a new dance called Testament, which will premiere as part of Ailey’s new season. Rehearsals took place at the Ailey Center in midtown, but the works were filmed around the city.

"I think the solo for both of us came out of our own “othering” of ourselves, not feeling like we fit in and then the resilience that we developed in order to succeed," said Sorzano.

Of course there were challenges in incorporating American Sign Language or ASL, because many signs can have several different meaning.

"So it's all in the facial expression. So it was really difficult wearing the mask because with only partial facial expressions,  you can only see what my eyebrows are doing and with that the whole story is not being told, and that's what a lot of people are dealing with right now, especially the deaf and hard of hearing community," said Figgins.

This entire season celebrates the 60th anniversary of Alvin Ailey’s Signature piece, “Revelations.”  All the dances on the program reflect the hopeful spirit of the Revelations, but also Ailey’s belief that dance could celebrate and give a voice to the African American experience, and be used as a form of peaceful protest.

"I'd like to think that people may be able to walk away recognizing the systems of oppression that we have continued to fall into and also recognizing that the work that has to be done could bring us to a place where we might feel joy again," said Sorzano

The December Ailey Season is completely free but donations are welcome. For more details, go to

BTS' Video For 'Permission To Dance' & Sign Language: Expert Explains



BTS, photo courtesy of Big Hit Music

    After releasing the definitive song of the summer, “Butter,” which spent a staggering seven weeks at no. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, BTS has dropped yet another joyful bop in the form of “Permission to Dance.” The rumors are true: “Permission to Dance” has now replaced “Butter” at No. 1, meaning BTS has accumulated number 1 tracks faster than any artist since Michael Jackson.

    Filmed by teams in both Seoul and Los Angeles, there’s plenty to unpack from the accompanying music video, but among the euphoric vignettes, heartfelt spotlights on service workers through the pandemic, and Jungkook’s incredibly emo haircut, one detail stands out: The BTS ARMY has been abuzz with the fact that the choreography incorporates sign language.

    William Martinez, a professional actor and musician who grew up in a deaf household, spoke to Consequence in order to shed a bit of light on the sign language details woven throughout the visual for “Permission to Dance.”

    Martinez — who travels the country with a show called SIGNing the Song: You Have Changed My Life, inspiring educators and students alike with ASL and the unifying power of music — maintains that music can truly be a universal experience when accessibility and inclusivity are prioritized. “Music is not just for the ears. It ignites all of the senses. Music is visual and emotional,” he says, explaining that body and face are just as much a part of the musical journey as words and sounds. “One of my favorite things about ASL and music is those who have never been exposed to ASL beginning to comprehend signs and the amazing imagery they provide.”

    The pandemic posed unique challenges for so many, including the differently abled: while emphasizing that he would never speak for the deaf community, Martinez points out one of the specific hurdles throughout this time. “Many Deaf depend on lip reading to communicate with non-ASL speakers. I personally witnessed the Deaf forced to make a scary choice: protect themselves with masks, or risk infection to get more clarity.” In addition to the inclusion of sign language, “Permission to Dance” features scenes of teachers, office workers, janitorial staff, and mail carriers, and while the pandemic experience may not have been the same for people across these demographics, there’s a sense of intentionality behind the details.

    Martinez noticed some of the differences between ASL (American Sign Language) and KSL (Korean Sign Language), highlighting that sign language is different around the world and often reflects the culture, language, and region of its speakers. While the signs used in the video for “peace” and “play” are different in KSL, one particularly important word is consistent: “The sign for ‘dance’ is the same,” he confirms. “I am excited to see sign language used in such creative ways and to such a huge audience. Accessibility and mainstream representation are so crucial to continue the fight for equity.”

    Certainly, a spotlight on the deaf community during Disability Pride Month (and the addition of a hearing aid emoji to their Twitter bio) aligns with BTS’ philanthropic track record. The group has often spoken on mental health and environmental justice, using their massive platform for positivity. Notably, the group made 2020 headlines for a donation of $1 million USD to Black Lives Matter, a number that was matched by the BTS ARMY in just over 24 hours. They’ll also be returning to the United Nations General Assembly in September, their third appearance at the global summit, this time as the recently appointed Presidential Special Envoy for Future Generations and Culture.

    “Anything can be a universal experience if equity and unconditional love are at the forefront,” Martinez adds. “Music is a magic wand that can be possessed by everyone.”

    Editor’s note: If you’re a member of ARMY, be sure to check out Stanning BTS. Hosted by Kayla and Bethany, the bi-monthly podcast covers all things BTS. Listen/subscribe here.


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Dance - sign language

23 May 2011

Dance is a living language that a person speaks, it is an artistic generalization hovering over a real basis in order to express itself at a higher level, in images, in innermost human emotions. Dance is an ancient art. More precisely, it became an art form much later, and initially it had a sacred, ritual character. The change in the conscious and positive reality of the ancients always took place in music and dance. In fact, dance is the eternal companion of man throughout history. Over time, in Western cultures, dance has evolved from a form of social communication of self-expression into an art form, the purpose of which is to educate and amuse the public. In the 19th century, dance became a formalized means of expression, as exemplified by classical ballet. One of the first to contribute to the revival of creative dance was the famous dancer Isadora Duncan. Now dance and communication are inseparable concepts. However, it has always been so. The ancients carried out two-way communication with God through dance. People believed that through dance they become closer to God, they asked him for something, and God rewarded them with harvest, rain, sun for this. A ritual dance is a kind of drawing, a spell, a prayer expressed in body language. Dance can rarely become an addition to the word, it is rather its expression. Ballet is a typical example. nine0005

If you look at dances from the point of view of social psychology, dance contains a lot of important and valuable information about a person, about his individual characteristics, about his interaction with the outside world. For example, you can just watch how a person dances, moves to music in an informal setting, in a relaxed state at a party or at an anniversary celebration. The communication skills of a person who dances beautifully and well will differ significantly from the communication skills of someone who stands at the wall, hesitates and does not dare to invite a lady to a slow dance. The dance manifests openness to the outside world, the desire for novelty. The individual characteristics of a person can be traced, first of all, in the manner of performance, in the presentation of the dance. For example, dance can be mobile, fascinating, dynamic and amazing in its original characteristics. However, if it is performed sluggishly, without initiative and mediocre, then it is clear that this dancer is not suitable for such a dance, he does not have the characteristics that the situation requires. The mood and inner emotional background are reflected in the dance, and we observe this when looking at dancing people. Therefore, you can adjust your emotions through dance. If you teach a person to dance beautifully and harmoniously (physical aspect), you can increase self-esteem (psychological aspect) and improve mood (emotional aspect). nine0005

In modern dance performances, age-old traditions are no longer conspicuous, they are somewhat veiled, but there is a lot of work, hard physical work and, of course, the spirit of the times. From what they show us on TV (from modern dances), it blows with aggressiveness, impulsiveness, pressure - all this against the background of very fast, rhythmic music. But this does not mean that there is no plasticity, harmony and consistency in modern dance images. Both have their place equally in contemporary art. But when the negative becomes a little more than usual, it does not go unnoticed. Therefore, we can assume that the dance is a reflection of the era in which it is born. The language of dance, like the language of gestures, is universal. nine0003

Anastasia Denisenko,
teacher-psychologist, leader "Choreography" DDT

Modified date: 05/26/2011 17:04:48

Why does ballet need pantomime, and how is it to be understood?

If in the middle, at the beginning or at the end of a classical performance, the dancers suddenly stopped and began to make wide and absurd gestures with each other - without panic. Everything really goes according to plan.

Ballet pantomime is an important part of classical performances. And most importantly - logically justified. She came to dance from the drama theater: with the help of sign language, choreographers of the past tried to breathe life and emotion into dance, which was a static court art. And they turned, in fact, a very subtle thing. nine0003

The plot ballet tells a story, and the very grammar of this phrase makes it clear that it must be heard. At the same time, ballet is a visual art and works primarily on the territory of feelings and impressions. And here the words are not appropriate. You can even apply test rule : if what is happening on the stage can be expressed in words, then most likely you have a bad ballet in front of you.

Therefore, pantomime in a performance is a plot-forming link. She suggests how the action will develop now, and for the feelings of the characters (and the viewer), for lyrics and poetry, there is a dance that does not describe the fact, but influences it. Music should hide any extraneous sounds on the stage, and even the click of pointe shoes can sometimes be embarrassing, like something improper: something that pulls you out of the sensual world into reality. nine0003

That is why the plots of early ballets seem simple and hackneyed, like pop hits (forbidden love, unrequited love, betrayal, etc. ). Nevertheless, they watch the performance not for information, but for the sake of experience. Pantomime itself has its own clear vocabulary, and, knowing it, it is easy to perceive classical performances as a whole, without dividing them into “talks” and dances. Let's look at short examples:

Swan Lake

Both fragments show how the main characters get to know each other, they are not yet madly in love, they have nothing to dance a poetic variation about, but these scenes are important for the plot and development of the plot. Already in these two examples, one can recognize the main gestures that are found in almost every ballet: pointing at oneself - I , at the other - you, touching the heart - love , two raised fingers of one hand facing the sky and to the auditorium, as to the altar - oath . nine0003

In the necessary dictionary there is also: hugging yourself - mother (look at the first act of "Giselle"), crossed arms with clenched fists towards the ground or a sharp movement of the fist to the heart, like thrusting a knife - death (this is how they plan the murder of Nikiya in La Bayadère), swipe across the face and kiss your fingers, like a French chef who praises the dish - beauty or youth (Aurora's father about his daughter in Sleeping Beauty), swipe over the forearms, as if pointing for long gloves - elegance , light touch of the fingers to the lips - conversation , and pointing to the ears - call to listen , touching the forehead and light movements of the brush over it, as if dispersing haze or fog above the head - dream or vision , rotation of the brushes above the head - dance . Knowing the meaning of the gestures, it is easy to understand the seemingly strange dialogue between Giselle and her mother:

The video below shows the dialogue between the sorceress Carabosse and the Lilac Fairy from Sleeping Beauty. The sorceress promises death to Aurora, but the Fairy changes the curse and decides that the princess will just fall asleep. The dancers use the same vocabulary but different tonality of articulation. nine0003

What was done with the pantomime " Russian Seasons" by Diaghilev , which, although they changed the form and plasticity of the productions, but also sought to make the performance dramatic? Here is what their first choreographer Mikhail Fokin writes in his memoirs about the ballet "Scheherazade": Shah Zeman sees that his brother Shah Nazar, having exterminated all the unfaithful wives, cannot give the order to slaughter his main, beloved wife Zobeida. He hesitates. Regrets. Shah Zeman is outraged by his brother's weakness, offended for him. What would he do according to tradition old ballet ? He would walk around the stage (circling around the stage is a common technique to get the audience's attention). I would point to the right. It means "you". Other hand to the left. It means "you too". Then both hands on his chest. It means "me". With both hands on your ears: "Listen!" Again on yourself: "I". A few movements in front of the mouth, as if something is pouring out of there: "I'll tell you everything."

Then there would be this “text” of the monologue: “When (pronounced by the artist to himself, but not expressed in any way) the night came (an angry face is made, the artist leans forward a little and joins his hands under his head, which means cover, darkness , night), here (pointing to the floor with a finger) they came (several steps, with hands pointing to different places on the floor, where each step of the walkers ends) one, the other, the third (showing one finger, two fingers, three fingers) blacks (the face is even more frowns to convey black, and is drawn over it with the hand from top to bottom).

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