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.’’