She’s rockin’ sign lan­guage for mu­sic fans with­out hear­ing

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Clarke Can­field

PORT­LAND, Maine — Holly Ma­ni­atty cre­ates mu­sic — for the deaf. Team­ing Amer­i­can Sign Lan­guage with dance moves and body lan­guage, she brings mu­si­cal per­for­mances alive for those who can’t hear. Her clients are a who’s who of rock, pop and hip-hop: Bruce Spring­steen, Eminem, Mum­ford and Sons, Jay-Z, Billy Joel, Mar­i­lyn Man­son, U2, Beastie Boys and Wu-Tang Clan, to name a few. Along the way, videos of her fast­mo­tion, hel­ter-skel­ter sign­ing have be­come pop­u­lar online. There’s the video of Spring­steen jump­ing down from the stage at the New Or­leans Jazz Fest and join­ing Ma­ni­atty and another in­ter­preter. There, he dances and signs to Danc­ing in the Dark. “Deaf peo­ple were com­ment­ing, ’Oh, the Boss knows he has deaf fans. That’s awe­some,”’ she said. “When artists con­nect with their in­ter­preters, they also con­nect with their deaf fans.” In another video, rap artist Killer Mike ap­proaches Ma­ni­atty in front of the stage af­ter notic­ing her. “I’ve never seen that be­fore,” he says to her be­fore chal­leng­ing her to sign a profane phrase, which she does as the crowd hoots and hollers. At a Wu-Tang per­for­mance, Method Man took no­tice of her sign­ing, came down from the stage and joined her. “He said, ’That’s dope,’ and gave me a hug and a fist pump,” she said. This month, she found her­self at New Eng­land’s largest drag queen show, sign­ing as per­form­ers from all over sashayed down the run­way and lip-synched to boom­ing mu­sic. The 33-year-old Ma­ni­atty, who lives out­side Port­land, learned sign lan­guage while study­ing it at the Rochester In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy in New York. She de­cided to make a liv­ing of it de­spite coun­sel­lors’ ad­vice against it. She works for a com­pany that con­nects deaf peo­ple with other peo­ple over video­phones that are con­nected online to com­put­ers or TVs. But from mid-April to mid-Septem­ber, she trav­els for paid gigs in­ter­pret­ing all types of mu­sic — hip-hop, rock, jazz, coun­try, gospel, rap.

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