Thursday, December 2, 2010

Deaf teen in Indiana makes her name as a dancer

From The Flyer:

INDIANAPOLIS — Greg Katter describes his daughter Margaret's dancing performances as like "a duck in water."

"She's always really had the showmanship and picked up on the choreography fast," he said of Margaret (pictured), who's been dancing since age 3. "She's always seemed to enjoy it, so we kept at it."

Now 16, Margaret has been an active student at Curtain Call Studio for years now. She spends an average of three to fours hours a day, four days a week, practicing - Saturdays too when the studio performs its annual production of "The Nutcracker." Margaret said her favorite genre of dance is modern, but added, "I'm pretty flexible and can pick up most anything you throw at me."

None of which is unusual, except that Margaret was born deaf. She's a student at the Indiana School for the Deaf and is fluent in both American sign language and spoken English. Margaret doesn't remember her hearing ever being an obstacle to her dancing.

"Every once in a while when we go to conventions, I have to let the teacher know to speak clearly or I have to be up front," she said. "It's basic accommodations. Other than that, I can pick up things pretty well."

The only difference for her is that instead of hearing the music, she either feels it or has to count it when it's really quiet.

"When you feel music, I feel more connected to it, and I can dance better and express my feelings better," Margaret said. "Just hearing the music puts you on a whole different plane. But when you feel it, you're together (with the music)."

Greg points out that since Margaret was born deaf, feeling music as opposed to really hearing it has been the only way she's ever known.

"She hasn't known anything but the situation she has," Greg said. "From a parent's perspective, there have been a few times where we've had to be proactive to make sure we got special accommodations."

But that's often been as simple as ensuring the teacher faces the students when talking.

"Just those little adjustments make all the difference," he said. "I think it's been a growth experience just for the teachers of the studio to have Margaret come through. It's expanded their awareness of teaching methods. And they've been very open to it, which is one of the reasons why we've been here for 16 years now."

This year's Curtain Call production of "The Nutcracker" will be performed at 2 and 6 p.m. Dec. 4 in the Ben Davis High School Theatre. Margaret portrays the Sugar Plum Fairy this time. In past productions she's performed the roles of party parents, flowers, snowflakes, and more.

"At some point I'd like to play every part," Margaret said. "It's the second-biggest event the studio does every year. Being a part of that since the beginning is really fun - to see how it's progressed."

Greg shares her sentiment.

"To see the growth year to year and concert to concert - wow, she couldn't do that last year or she's really improved here - she's grown in pride and joy every year," he said.

Margaret plans to continue dancing in college, and ultimately either perform or teach it.

"Hopefully, I'll find a good job teaching dance and performing," she said. "One of my goals is to dance for Disney World."