The Washington Blade has an incredibly inspiring story of Mervin Primeaux, a gay & hearing impaired dancer who has been invited to perform with Edgeworks, a unique all male modern dance company based in D.C. .
While life as a black gay man and a dancer may not be easy, try adding the challenge of not being able to hear the music you're dancing to. The audience claps but for Primeaux there is total silence. Yet, the audience never notices, as the deaf dancer seamlessly performs each movement and transition in unison with the rest of the performers on stage.
Washington Blade staff writer Joe Rendeiro asked Primeaux if there were any initial fears joining Edgeworks as a dancer with a hearing disability.
“Of course I was nervous when I first started,” Primeaux says, through an interpreter. “I was afraid of a communication problem … But, nothing bad has happened. I am inspired by them and they know where I am coming from. There is no boundary to my being involved.”
Primeaux wasn’t the only one who was nervous. Helanius Wilkins, the artistic director and founder of the company, who is also gay, says he had questions about adding a deaf dancer into the mix.
“In the beginning I was nervous … you have the fear of the unknown,” Wilkins says. “But he contributed something special within the make-up of the company, not just because he is deaf.”
Primeaux relies mostly on his eyes to make sure he’s in the right place, making the right moves at the right time on stage. It requires some modifications in the rehearsal process, both for him and the other dancers, and he carefully keeps his eyes focused and receives subtle cues from the other dancers — who are gradually picking up sign language.
Male dancers are often stereotyped as overtly flamboyant and weak causing many young men who are interested in training to shy away for fear of being judged or ridiculed. The hit movie and Tony award winning Broadway play Billy Elliot is based on this premise.
We want to look at stereotypes and shatter them,” Wilkins says. Our company is an example of men who are strong and vulnerable and who are not focused on sexuality first to express themselves.”
A few images of the men of Edgeworks via Tim Coburn below the jump: