Alice Wong interviewed Antoine Hunter for the Disability Visibility Project® at StoryCorps San Francisco on January 7, 2017. Antoine recalls an important moment as a teenager when he performed a solo piece in dance class and shares what dance means to him.
ANTOINE HUNTER: I love being a dancer. It was for me, like I explained that I was outcast by both Deaf and hearing, and I felt that they just couldn’t understand me. That’s why I did it, [laughing] you know? You know. I was trying to figure out, why they don’t like me. Just because I dance? That’s ridiculous. But maybe just because they don’t understand me! That’s why they don’t like me, you know. So, I talk funny. I’m very poetic, [chuckles] you know?
It wasn’t until my high school dance teacher, Dawn James, at Skyline High School, she said she wanted everybody to create a dance and work together in a group. I couldn’t seem to get anybody to really work with me, so I had to do my own solo. And she was like, “That’s OK. Do your solo.” And after a couple of weeks, we had to show it to people, and I did my solo. I had the music, Whitney Houston I Will Always Love You, and I was really nervous when I first started, you know. Here comes the music.
I don’t know exactly what she’s saying, but I know that I read the lyrics. She’s gonna repeat the words a lot of times. I know the timing, so I would try to memorize it in my body what she’s singing. And well, while she starts singing, there’s a huge instrumental break, and the music just bursts into [inaudible]. And I am freer than following the lyrics, you know. And I start, I don’t know what happened, you know, it’s just everything was black. It was like electricity in my body. I could feel like the splash of the water coming on me, and I’m rolling and I’m jumping and using my hands to hold my body. And it went back to the lyrics again, so I was trying to find a way to come back. But something was still pulling me.
And when the music was finished and I look around the room— [laughs] I’m laughing because everybody was looking at me like I lost my mind, you know. Then they started clapping, and the teacher was like asking what do they think the dance means. They were saying, “Oh, it was like you were cold. You were so alone. You was reaching for love. You had love.” And that was right. It was a way to communicate. It was like, wow! They understood me, and I felt like I made some connection with them, you know.
From that day on, I wanted to dance in all kind of forms. It wasn’t about trying to be a professional dancer. It was just that I wanted to speak in so many languages to connect with people, you know?
ALICE WONG: Mmhmm.
ANTOINE: And I wanted to learn [laughing] African dance. I wanted to do Russian. I did [inaudible]. I did traditional Mexican, you know. I made friends from different backgrounds because of the dance, the culture in dance. I didn’t have to travel all over the country. I’d be right here dancing and speaking their language. It really changed me, and it really brought more people in my life just because of that.
So, dance for me, you know, it gave healing powers, and it gave a way to connect with people. And that’s all I really, that’s how I feel about dance, you know? And that’s my greatest passion: bringing people together.
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Disability Visibility Project®. (2018, December 4). DVP Interview: Antoine Hunter and Alice Wong. Retrieved from:
On the left, Alice Wong an Asian American woman wearing a bright green rain jacket. She is wearing a mask over her nose attached to a gray tube which is connected to her ventilator. She is sitting closely next to Antoine Hunter, a self-described handsome, dark milk chocolate, African American Man. He has long Ebony dreadlocks hair tied to back with a full Ebony-colored beard and full brown lips. He is wearing a black hoodie that says, “I [heart] Being BLACK.”
Produced for the Disability Visibility Project® by Alice Wong. Interview recorded by StoryCorps, a national nonprofit whose mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the story of our lives. For more: www.storycorps.org and www.disabilityvisibilityproject.com