Blind, deaf man em­braces dance class


Al­most ev­ery Tues­day even­ing for the last six years a blind and deaf Auck­land man has clapped and stepped his way through hour-long Bol­ly­wood dance classes.

De­spite be­ing born blind and pro­foundly deaf Cheyenne Min­hin­nick, 32, hasn’t been de­terred from at­tend­ing Bol­ly­wood classes at Mt Roskill Gram­mar school.

Bol­ly­wood danc­ing comes from In­dia’s film in­dus­try and is a mix­ture of styles in­clud­ing bel­ly­danc­ing, clas­si­cal In­dian, In­dian folk, West­ern pop­u­lar, and jazz.

Min­hin­nick can raise his arms and his legs, tap his toes, clap and repli­cate the tra­di­tional ‘light­bulb’ move­ment, all to the sound of mu­sic.

Min­hin­nick can’t talk but Francine Levesconte, his carer for the last 16 years, said although he gets lost with peo­ple’s con­ver­sa­tions, he can hear and feel the beat of mu­sic.

‘‘It’s all about the en­ergy that comes from the class. It’s def­i­nitely his happy place and it’s re­ally cool that he’s a part of the lo­cal com­mu­nity.’’

Levesconte said all Min­hin­nick’s care­givers love go­ing to classes with him be­cause they get to dance with him.

‘‘It’s such a vi­brant and colour­ful place to go for the even­ing and dance or to watch.’’

Ev­ery Mon­day Min­hin­nick asks ex­cit­edly if there is a class on Tues­day even­ing. On the odd oc­ca­sion when there’s not he goes tram­polin­ing in One­hunga.

‘‘He’s done salsa danc­ing at the start of the year too, but if he had to choose he said he pre­ferred Bol­ly­wood.’’

Ella Ku­mar, a Bol­ly­wood in­struc­tor since 1989, said that Min­hin­nick can do ev­ery­thing every­one else does, just to his own abil­ity.

‘‘He even has bet­ter form with some of the move­ments than a few of the ladies.’’

The so­cial skills, mo­tor skills and in­clu­sive­ness that the com­mu­nity ed­u­ca­tion classes offer Min­hin­nick has been a great help in his life, Ku­mar said.

‘‘The 35 ladies in the class have been amaz­ing in em­brac­ing Min­hin­nick.’’

‘‘They know him so well. They re­alise he’s there, he’s a part of the class, and they make him feel in­cluded.’’

When Min­hin­nick’s last carer fin­ished work­ing with him a few weeks ago she was in tears at the end of the class, Ku­mar said.

‘‘He re­ally can give a lot of hope to a lot of oth­ers.’’

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