Deaf Rutgers student to dance in upcoming concert
Being deaf never stopped Mason Gross School of the Arts senior Anna Gichan from dancing.
Over the past few weeks, Gichan has been working on her senior solo-duet concert — choreographing with other dancers and collaborating with musicians to prepare for a professional dancing career.
Gichan was given a hearing aid at the age of three along with an FM unit that her teachers used to communicate corrections to her during class, she said.
She said she remembers being afraid that others would judge her based on her condition.
“I was always afraid to talk when I was little,” Gichan said. “I used to think that everyone thought I was stupid because of the way I talked.”
Despite all of this, Gichan said she was never discouraged. Her mother and father fought to make sure that she had a life like any other kid by encouraging her to do gymnastics, play on the baseball team with her brother and start dancing, she said.
Gichan said it is sometimes difficult to be a dancer without the ability to hear. Most dance numbers rely on music, so unlike other dancers, she had to learn to dance without depending on music.
“I just learned how to take cues off of other people’s body language. But that took a while to figure out,” Gichan said.
She also had to learn how to manage a hearing aid while dancing. She said this can be difficult because of the sweat and rapid movement that dance creates. As a result, she takes a lot of her classes without her hearing aid, she said.
Gichan said Mason Gross has given her unique opportunities to study abroad, attend shows in New York and connect with "big name dancers."
During her time at Rutgers, she said she has also learned a number of different techniques and genres that have expanded the breadth of her talents.
"My professors have really pushed me to become the best that I can possibly be," Gichan said. "The teachers have been so welcoming, some of them are really curious and will ask me questions. I really appreciate it."
One professor had the entire class wear ear plugs during practice one day so they could understand what class was like from her perspective, she said.
She said her fellow classmates did not know very much about her condition and that for many of them, working with someone who is deaf was a completely new experience.
Gichan said diversity at Rutgers makes it an “open community,” where people are generally accepting of others who are different than themselves.
She is currently working to raise awareness for students with disabilities through her involvement with the Learning and Experiential Office as a LEX leader, she said.
She will also speak at an upcoming event called "Dear World," a social awareness project that has traveled across college campuses nationwide. At the event, she will discuss her hearing impairment and how it made her the person she is today.
“I think deaf awareness is extremely important. Regardless of age, hearing impacts everyone and advocacy needs to develop so that the public understands there is more than one way to do anything,” Gichan said.
Jacob Turchi is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in journalism and media studies. He is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.