May 25, 2017

Arch for ASL


Arch Contemporary Ballet began Arch for ASL in March of 2017. This growing program is an inclusive opportunity for the deaf community and hearing community to come together and delve into creative ballet works, put #deaftalent in the spotlight, and hiring opportunities for the NYC Deaf community in the arts. 


Arch Ballet’s commitment to the community is to bring new ballet, new music, and new ideas to an inclusive 21st century audience. Not giving limits on who can attend and relate to their works. The work began simply when one of the dancers met a Deaf man on the train and he was pointing at her pointe shoes. She said she was a dancer, but realized he didn’t understand her. He pointed again and she took out her dance journal and wrote ‘I am a dancer, I would love for you to come to my show’ and he wrote back in her journal ‘I am Deaf I won’t be able to hear the music’. It was an astonishing moment for one of our dancers that we weren’t able to reach someone over something she felt shouldn’t stop them from coming together to enjoy dance. 

Our works are created in silence so she felt a small connection to viewing dance without music and felt that shouldn’t hinder him from being able to witness the movement and share these moments with us. That’s when we began to study more about ASL culture in NYC and the connection our choreographic process shared with our Deaf community and we invited the community in. Gaining feedback and how to include the Deaf community and that was how the program Arch for ASL was born. 


The program started few months after the premiere of Hues of Memory, Arch Ballet’s first collaboration with the NYC Deaf community. A romantic ballet that used ASL within the movement to reveal a poem by world renowned photographer Luis Pons, employed an entire team of Deaf community leaders to consult on the ballet, an ASL Director to teach, translate, and coach the hearing dancers involved in ASL, employed a Deaf dancer, employed a Deaf culture liason choreographer who is a CODA and is receiving a masters at NYU for his movement style of combining movement and ASL together to help choreograph the transitions of ASL and movement. This master project took many phases with studies and panels to ensure the NYC Deaf community involvement was represented the way the Deaf community wanted it to be. It has been performed 4 times since then and continues to develop as an inclusive work. 

The ballet’s violin vibrations were projected onto the background of the dance so you could see the music, in which resembled a moonlight shape. Every audience member had a balloon in their seat so they could feel the music. Interpreters were in the lobby, audience, on stage during open ceremonies, and provided a talk back to the community. A Deaf dancer performed with the company, a Deaf poet performed the poem in which the dancers were signing as well, and the entire ASL team behind the project played a large role. 


Now, Arch for ASL has grown from just one ballet to an entire program that is implemented every season. Every Arch Ballet season a matinee performance is dedicated to Arch For ASL. In its fourth season, the past three seasons have been sold out thanks to the community involvement. Hues of Memory continues to be performed but also new works inspired by Deaf poets have been presented, and each seasons programming is different.

-Hearing dancers take ASL classes so the audience doesnt feel they are watching hearing dancers speak their own language but instead feel they are continuously immersing themselves into the Deaf community to share their art form

-Deaf artists are hired to collaborate, coach, and direct any aspects that use ASL

-Deaf liasons are hired to ensure the audience experience is built for the Deaf community

-The music is projected so the audience can see the vibrations of the music OR the audience is given balloons so they can feel the vibrations of the music depending on the ballet

-Interpreters are at the box office, subway stations to give directions, in the audience, and on stage during opening ceremonies to give a more conversational and friendly environment vs interpreters only interpreting what hearing people say – they are conversational and often volunteers who are there to also mingle and enjoy creating a group inclusive experience

-Talk back with the dancers, choreographers, and Deaf directors team about the work

-Collaboration and feedback are welcome please email


Arch Contemporary Ballet dancers all take ASL classes to move the company in the direction of immersing themselves in Deaf culture and showing our understanding for being a part of the Deaf community.

We also hire 2 high school level students each semester to intern with Arch Ballet in our offices. Our internship program is to help immerse Deaf students into the working world especially students who show a passion for the performing arts. Applicants can apply at . 


Our program is committed to growth if you have any feedback, requests to collaborate, or would like to volunteer please email us at 


Thank you to the Deaf community for allowing us into the community to create this program. Thank you to our Deaf community leaders Cromm Saunders, Maleni Chaitoo, Leila Chaitoo, Russ Kane, Lashala Collins, Lexington School, Brandon Kazen Maddox, Kat DeMayo, Collin Finch, and so many more who have made corrections, given guidance and direction, continue to expand our program, and support in creating Arch for ASL performances.