Video Description: Boston Herald Video featuring Kerry Thompson, founding director of Silent Rhythms, instructing and dancing with participants during a Salsa in the Park program held in the South End. Staff video by Angela Rowlings.



ANNOUNCER: Also at 7 o’clock we’re gonna have silent rhythms do a class and that’s a special class for those who are deaf or hard of hearing. And Kerry Thompson is here with Deaf Inc and they are providing the classes starting at 7 o’clock. They’re also here in the back that says “Learn to Sign Language.” they’d like for you guys to go visit them one week if you want to learn how to say your name or if you want to learn how to say “Would you like to salsa with me?”
KERRY THOMPSON: My name is Kerry and I’m originally from Louisiana. I moved to Boston about 10 years ago in the hope that I could find better opportunities for myself as a person with multiple disabilities I was born profoundly deaf and then when I was 10 years old, the doctor told me that I had “retinitis pigmentosa” which is RP for short. And RP is progressive blindness disorder that means that I have to contend with night blindness sensitivity to light and tunnel vision. And as I get older, the tunnel gets smaller and smaller and for some people, people will say that I’m losing my vision. But I prefer to say that I’m losing my eyesight. Because losing my vision sounds like, I’m saying I’m losing my hope and my ambitions for the future.


But I want to tell you about my vision and my vision is for a world where there’s more equal access for people of all abilities, whether they have a disability or not. And one area that I would love to see more inclusion in, is in the world of dance. I know that sounds surprising to people, learning that I’m deaf and losing my eyesight so how can I be a dancer? How can I–how did I learn how to dance? That’s the first question people always ask me. Yes, it was difficult to learn and yes it took me a long time, but the moment that I took my first lesson, I just fell in love with salsa dancing. There was so much joy and euphoria in dancing with someone else and many people don’t think about dancing as a language itself. It’s a way to communicate without words and to me that was just the perfect fit. And over time I eventually became pretty good at dancing and joined a performance team and many of my friends who were deaf and hard of hearing always would tell me “I wish I could learn but it’s too difficult to learn” and I’m thinking if I can learn, you can learn, anyone can learn.


I did understand their fears and frustrations and I decided to start a dance program called “Silent Rhythms” and the dance program is about teaching in a way that’s accessible so I can use sign language while I’m teaching dance, or maybe if I’m teaching someone who’s blind, I try to be more descriptive in what I’m teaching.


For people who are deaf-blind, I try to use a lot more hands on teaching in terms of helping them feel the way. They can touch me over parts of me to feel what I’m doing with my hands, my feet, my head, my neck. There’s so much joy in teaching people that society tend to think is impossible to teach. The moment these students get that “aha!” feeling of “I got what you’re trying to tell me, I understand” that makes it all worthwhile to me and to see my student with different types of disability dancing with others in the dance community, that’s a bonus because I’m also teaching the dance community about the importance of including people with disabilities in the arts and dancing in general and so I like to think that dancing is a way to have a positive social impact.