Exclusive: Interview with Antoine Hunter

Antoine Hunter at Black Choreographers Festival

Written by Thomsen Young and you can follow him @

Serious Questions:

At what point did realize that you wanted be a dancer for the rest of your life?

I believe I was alway a dancer but it goes beyond that, it’s something more than just being a dancer. Just as I am Deaf, African American, a father, and an advocate, dance is something that I am.

What is your best performance that you’re proud of so far?

I am proud of all of my performances. Whether good shows or bad, I’m still happy because I learn so much. I have been involved in, and helped create, many, many dance performances. There was one performance, though, of which I am particularly proud, I would like to share with you.

I performed at the Ethnic Dance Festival held in San Francisco, California. To perform at this Festival, you must be able to demonstrate your culture through dance. I performed a dance entitled,“Deaf is a Culture” … we have our own language, we have dance, we move in our own “Deaf way.” As a result of my performance, the Ethnic Dance Festival added the new genre of American Sign Language Dance, to their event! This was historic as it was the first time a category of this nature had been included!

For more information on the Ethnic Dance Festival, please see their website below.
http://worldartswest.org/main/edf_performer.asp?i=216


I am also the founder of the Bay Area Deaf Dance Festival, which I began two years ago, now starting on our third year. This Festival has brought over 50 performers from all over the world to perform in San Francisco, CA, and I am proud to be able to support my community.

If you could give a young dancer advice based on your experiences so far, what would you recommend that he/she should do?

Alway, alway warm-up, before doing anything, no matter how easy the show or dance class might be. Things happen, and it’s better to be safe than sorry! As an example, one time I stretched my leg without warming-up, and two seconds later, I tore my hamstring!!

What kind of training did you put in for Kiss Louder/The Silence? Was the performance a success? In your own words, what do you feel like was the pinnacle moment in your performance for Kiss Louder/The Silence?

The dancing for Kiss Louder/The Silence, is general Jazz combined with alot of Ballet training, and Hip Hop, African Dance, and ASL Dance. ASL dance is a very different type of dance, and I am not talking about acting or “lyrical dancing.” I don’t “lyrical dance.” ASL dance is raw movement that doesn’t lie; the movement is poetic, but the signs are in the real time rhythm of the movement. Many Deaf dancers find it hard to perform sign dance. Just like Ballet, or Deaf theatre, it takes training and time. I have been focusing on ASL dance for over 11 years.

I dislike fake feelings with dance. I want to see my dancers have real experiences, real feelings. I want to have real people in my dance, and I don’t care how many years you have danced, if I don’t feel your emotion, I won’t hire you. I don’t care how high you can go, I must feel why your legs are going to that height.

Tell us about the choreography of Kiss Louder/The Silence. What did you envision? Did what you envision succeed?

I am the choreographer for the dance “Kiss Louder,” which involves a long silent duet, a woman on a chair facing away from the audience, and four other dancers pushing and pulling, then suddenly stopping and letting themselves go. “Kiss Louder” is about Deafhood, which was inspired by the Deafhood Foundation. I spoke with Ella Mae Lentz, on the Board [of Directors] for the Deafhood [Foundation], and Raja [Rajeshwari], founder of Deafhood Yoga, and I told them I wanted to create a dance about Deaf Culture.

The dance is about social justice for all Deaf people; it explains how Society wants to strip our identity away. When that happens, we can’t love ourselves or anyone else in our relationships … mom and dad, co-worker, lover, children and so on.

“Kiss Louder” makes the statement we must love who we are, and we need to know how to Push, Pull, Stop, and Let It Go. Many people found the dance very powerful.

Quoting David Harris, Director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, “Art is a powerful entryway in the fight for justice.”

“Silence” is a dance I do solo. Antoine Hunter collaborated with acclaimed theater director Ellen Sebastian Chang in its’ creation. The dance is broken into three parts. In the first part, I use a vomit-like movement for 3 mins, and slowly, inch-by-inch, pull six yards of string out my mouth, while dancing with it. The lights go dark. Then, the second part involves intense body shaking and self-abuse, with fear, as well as freedom, overtaking my body, ending in a scream. The lights again go dark. In the third part, image like movement picture of all people who had die for their children, family and new generation. And, the lights fade out. It is a very intense dance. Very intense dance.

What were some of the struggles? Did you have any setbacks? If you had to do it over again, would you change anything at all?

I would change nothing. Silence was amazing, and everyone stood up, with hands waving, Hearing and Deaf. It did take me time to find great dancers for that dance. And, I did have to fire a dancer who didn’t show up on-time, but it’s still a blessing because I learned from that as well. I would like to personally thank Zahna Moss for her support for our company, Urban Jazz Dance Company. With her vision, I hope that our company will go far.

Zula Hunter with Antoine Hunter

What are your future plans?

There are many lists, but I can give you a few … 1) Start a Youth Deaf Dance Project, and 2) work on the Deaf Dance Festival 2015. Also, continue to tour to different schools, have Company tours out of the country, and dance with my little girl Zula Hunter more. She loves dancing, and wants to be more involved, so I plan to get her involved soon!

Since #deaf talent is trending all over the internet right now, do you have any thoughts on what #deaftalent means to you?

Deaftalent is truth-on-earth. Deaf is real. Each of us has our own talent. Deaf is not a curse-on-earth, but our Blessing to show people differences can bring cultures together. We need to be louder about who we are and share our talent around the world. Sometimes I say, “Being deaf is not often the problem, but not being loud enough or too silent about your talent or being Deaf [is].” I love meeting Deaf professionals of all kind, but I ask the world to also look at Deaf People of Color with Talent. Do not just focus on White Deaf, but also World Deaf. In other words, people of many “colors” … Gay, Straight, Transgender, and so on. I would add #POCDeafTalent to #Deaftalent.

Completely Silly Random Questions:

If you could be any character in fiction, whom would you be?

Naruto Uzumaki, Professor X, Ichigo Kurosak , Constantine.

If you had only six months left to live, what would you do with the time?

First, teach my little girl Zula Hunter everything I know. Then, I would climb the highest mountain, swim with the whales, play one-on-one basketball with Shaquille O’Neal, and, oh yeah, create a dance show with Oprah, my mom Charlotte Mitchell, and with Zula!

You have the choice to live with a gorilla who knows sign language or a dog who sings lullabies, which do you choose?

Gorilla, because we can sit in the tree together having tea during the sunset.

If you could be a superhero, what would you want your superpowers to be?

Level 52 Professional Xavier: As a high-level telepath, Xavier can read, control, and influence human minds. At Level 52, he is able to walk and fly.

If you were a Star Trek® [or Star Wars® ] character, which one would it be?

Star Trek

Lieutenant Commander Data was a Soongtype android. Or Star War, Master Yoda was one of the most renowned and powerful Jedi Masters.

My favorite part: The questionnaire concept was originated by French television personality Bernard Pivot on his show Apostrophes, after the Proust Questionnaire.

The ten questions Lipton asks are:

What is your favorite word?
“BABA” ( My little girl Zula called me that)

What is your least favorite word?
Can’t

What turns you on?
Sweat and muscle.

What turns you off?
People who are two faced.

What sound or noise do you love?
Zula snoring heavy in her sleep.

What sound or noise do you hate?
Children crying in pain.

What is your favorite curse word?
“Damn it!”

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
I think nude modeling and acting.

What profession would you not like to do?
Proctology (aka… ass doctor or butt hole check doctor)

If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
Archangel Antoine Hunter, one real brother, come on in!

 

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