The story of the Gallaudet Dance Company begins in 1955 when Dr. Peter Wisher, a professor in the Department of Physical Education, observed a student signing "The Lord's Prayer" during a campus ceremony. Impressed by the beauty and movement of the signs, he saw the possibility of using signs as a foundation for dance movement. He invited interested students to a meeting to explore this possibility. At first, this was not a performing company but rather a recreational activity. Students got together two or three times a week for an hour of fun and social enjoyment. Word of the club spread, and the group began to be asked to perform-both on and off campus.
As requests for performances increased, informal practice became serious work. A set rehearsal schedule was developed. The Gallaudet Dance Company was born. Today the company performs a variety of dance forms, such as modern dance, tap, jazz, and, of course, dances incorporating American Sign Language. The dancers have performed across the United States, as well as in France, Israel, Canada, Denmark, Peru, Costa Rica, Barbados, Guatemala, the Bahamas, Brazil, St. Lucia, South Korea, and Egypt.
The Gallaudet Dance Company has come a long way since 1955. The company recently celebrated its 55th Anniversary on March 25 and 26, 2010 at Gallaudet University. The company has evolved from modern dance with abstract signs to incorporate a wider repertoire of ballet, jazz, hip-hop, tap and dance incorporated with ASL. "The Lord's Prayer" which was the first dance performed by the troupe still remains part of the repertoire as a reminder of the roots of dance at Gallaudet.
Photography by Ben Baylor and Astrid Riecken.