Dancer Antoine Hunter infuses art with Deaf culture

Born completely deaf in his left ear and “hard of hearing” in his right, Antoine Hunter is the founder and director of Urban Jazz Dance Company and the President of the Bay Area Deaf Advocates. Here, he discusses how he engages with music and his role as ambassador of Deaf culture.

OAKLAND — Antoine Hunter is used to talking about what most would call his disability.

Despite a prestigious resume in ballet and jazz dance, Hunter is labeled first and foremost a Deaf dancer.

But instead of distancing himself from the label, Hunter has embraced it by becoming an ambassador for “Deaf culture” in the Bay Area. He is the founder and creative director of Urban Jazz Dance Company, an ensemble that incorporates sign language into its choreography, and the President of the Bay Area Black Deaf Advocates.

A native of West Oakland, Hunter was born completely deaf in his left ear and “hard of hearing” in his right. Nonetheless, he learned to dance at Oakland’s Skyline High before attending the California Institute of the Arts on scholarship.

Having emerged from a rough neighborhood, with only his mother as a role model, Hunter has turned his focus toward helping others.

“I try to be the role model for the community and to be the one to say ‘I’m going to do it’,” he said. “I want to make a path for others who are Deaf, for people of color or who are low income—people who need a voice.”

Hunter dances around the world, primarily with artists without hearing disabilities, but he feels most comfortable with his own company. Dancing with others who are hard of hearing, he said, allows them to be free to express themselves in different ways than more conventional dance groups.

“Not everyone is going on the same choo-choo train,” he said. “The dancers have to find a way to work together while everybody is feeling the music differently.”

See the video above for more about Hunter’s relationship to music and his promotion of Deaf culture.

14 Comments

  1. AHR

    Terrific guy, excellent piece! I’d love to see him and his company dance.

  2. ME

    Mr. Hunter is surely a young leader in the Deaf Community, in the Urban Community of his hometown Oakland, and in the Great Community of Society as a whole. He has worked hard to open the eyes and minds of others to see not only Deaf as simply different, not disabled but also to see Dance as a pure form of clear communication and expression. He is a pioneer in the community and in the professional arena of Dance. More well written local articles like this should be written about him and he should be gaining more national and international publicity as well. As a member of the Deaf Community, I am both proud of him and honored to know him.

  3. Cfrazier

    This is a wonderful article. I am truly inspired by this man’s drive and dedication. What others may have thought was out of the realm of possible, Mr. Hunter has not only achieved but has excelled as not only a dancer, but a leader and role model for the Deaf Community and anyone who has a dream. I look forward to seeing him perform one day.

  4. Samuel Caraballo

    Hi I would like to says your video real spiritual influence me. I am dancer from since HIgh School and Co-founder with with dancers, all of us are Deaf and in New York City but in past we have to closed our dance company cuz of many reasons. Yes, hurt me a lot. I wish you be here and I will join dance Perforamnce with your group.

  5. Ellen Bronson

    It’s beautiful and truly opens hearing world’s eyes and gives bigger insight about our deaf culture.

  6. bas

    very good report ! see you soon , Astrid

  7. Great work ang great vision.

  8. Sierra Robinson

    I dance with this guy at East bay Center for the Performing Arts and he is amazing! He is so inspirational to everyone out there! I am so happy to even get the privilege to even work with him! And I know he is going too dance for as long as he lives! We appreciate you and thank you!

    Peace and Blessings

    Sierra Robinson

  9. nathifa

    My friend, amazing work. You are communicating to the world now…i remember how frustrating it was…Hopefully you can plan a trip to NYC soon** #DanceSavedMyLife #CalArts #Mr.Hunter #DeafDancer #EBinc

  10. lise

    What an inspiration! Beautifully said and filmed. Art truly saves lives and dance has saved mine many times. Keep up the noble work!

  11. Paunika

    Thoughly inspirational and beautiful!

  12. Mikoazule

    This man is an exceptional human being. His ability to see what most people cannot see in themselves is extraordinary and insightful. As a teacher he allows his students to express their personal authenticity. As a dancer he exudes pure love. He is a gift to his community.

  13. Jenny Glithero

    Antoine leaps hurdles literally and metaphorically with grace, dignity, determination and unrelenting spirit. His passion for dance doesn’t stop at door of his studio but runs out to the streets and affects everyone that he meets creating connections and communities with love and freedom of self. Superman does exist… And he’s living in Oakland!
    Jenny, London.

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