Deaf dancer Jason Wong Yiu-pong wins plays at Broadway school

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 March, 2014, 5:14am
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 March, 2014, 5:14am

Making magic as a dancer on Broadway is hard enough - as anyone who has seen the 1980 hit musical Fame will be aware.

And when you can't even hear the music, making that dream become a reality may seem too much for some.

But Jason Wong Yiu-pong, profoundly deaf since the age of five, is defying all the odds and heading to New York.

The 26-year-old Hongkonger has been accepted by the Broadway Dance Centre, which boasts among its alumni such stars as Britney Spears and Bette Midler, and countless other Broadway performers. "I want to tell people that deaf people don't need sympathy, just an equal opportunity and we will be able accomplish things like performing on stage," said Wong.

"And I would like to tell deaf people out there that they can accomplish their goals too, that it's important to persevere."

Wong started dancing six years ago, after years of watching singers and dancers perform, wishing he too could be up on stage.

He built up the courage and learned the basics at a community centre for the deaf and soon after joined mainstream classes.

"For every two hours other dancers practise, I've had to do at least six hours," he says. The toughest part for him is finding the rhythm through vibrations on the floorboards. Wong relies on someone counting out the beats with their hands, just to make sure.

Today he has his own dance crew of four members, all of whom are deaf. He incorporates sign language into his choreography to encourage its use.

Practice sessions last up to seven hours. If Wong is preparing for a performance, there may be four such sessions in a week.

His determination has paid off, and his year-long programme in New York will be partly funded by the Lee Hysan Foundation through a programme with the Arts With the Disabled Association.

Wong will be the only deaf student, and will need a sign language translator for classes. He says he knows enough American Sign Language to survive.

"I hope to learn ballet as well as improve on my hip hop skills. Mostly to work on my dance postures and techniques," he says. "I hope to return to Hong Kong and teach performing arts and dance to other deaf children."