Many hearing people might take it for granted that, since dance is an activity usually done to music, it is something that only hearing people can do.
There are many connections between music, dance, and deaf people. Some of these connections can be very surprising.
In humans, there is a golf-ball sized area of the brain over the left ear that is designed to process speech and language. There is a separate area of the brain designed to process vibration. In deaf people, the speech area redesigns itself to also process vibrations. Therefore, it is possible that deaf people can experience music in a deep and rich way that hearing people do not appreciate.
In recent years, many school systems have installed special platforms designed to help deaf or hearing-impaired students to experience music more fully. In many cases these platforms are “sprung,” meaning they have heavy springs installed underneath. There are also large speakers turned face-down on the platforms. This combination of specially-arranged speakers, heavy springs and natural wood in the platforms makes for an excellent sound transmission system. Students sitting or standing on the platform can feel a wide range of vibrations through their feet or bodies, which aids in appreciation of the wide variety of sounds made by the different musical instruments.
These sprung platforms are also used to aid in teaching the deaf to dance. The students are able to feel the musical vibrations through the floor, so it is easier for them to follow the beat and the intensity of the music. Many professional dance troupes are known to use sprung floors in their studios to help the dancers soar into the air when they leap. Many performance spaces also utilize sprung floor surfaces.
As anyone who has been to a rock concert can tell you, if the music is loud enough the sheer sound pressure can be felt on the face, arms, or even move the clothing. This level of sound doesn’t stop at the skin, but penetrates through the entire body. The bass “thump” that is felt in the chest bypasses the ears completely! It is easy for anyone to move to music at this volume.
Dance and music are not reserved only for the hearing. Even now, deaf people can derive great pleasure from music and dance. As technology advances, deaf consumers may be able to add even more levels to their enjoyment of music.
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