An award-winning dancer/choreographer and beloved figure in the Bay Area, Antoine Hunter has danced with Savage Jazz Dance Company, Nuba Dance Theatre, and Robert Moses' Kin dance company. He founded Urban Jazz Dance Company and is co-director/founder of Iron Tri-Angel Urban Ballet. He teaches at the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts, Dance-A- Vision Entertainment, and Ross Dance Company, where he also serves as rehearsal director. Hunter has performed and taught in Rome, London, Cuba, and Africa.

I am an African-American Deaf dance artist. My desire for dance began at the age of 4. I can remember seeing everyone break dancing and I wanted to try. I got on the cardboard and did a spin and a kick—but then there was a bam!—I wound up in the hospital with an injured knee.

That knee injury was painful, but not as much as the idea of not ever being able to dance again. My passion for dance was put on hold until I was 8 and my mother took me to see Oakland Ballet. I was so in awe of the dancers' poise, grace, and their ability to use their bodies to tell a story. They touched the hearts and souls of the audience—of me.

But my mother couldn't afford to take me to any kind of dance class. We were very poor. At the same time, I found it harder and harder to fit in with the other kids—to be understood, to be heard.

I would want to play outside with the other kids, and their parents wouldn't let them play with me. Maybe it was because I was black. I wanted to hang out with the other kids of color, but they didn't want to play with me either. Maybe it was because I was Deaf. I tried to socialize with deaf people, and they didn't want to hang out with me either.

I began to feel very alone and, at one point, suicidal. But soon, there was a beacon of hope. Dance. It wasn't until I enrolled in Skyline High School in 1997 that my passion for dance was reignited. At first, the classes were very hard and I felt intimidated. And just like during my childhood years, no one wanted to dance with me. But then my dance teacher, Ms. Dawn James, approached me and told me to create a solo. I decided to dance to Whitney Houston's “I Will Always Love You."

When the music started, I began rocking my head side to side as if a boat were rocking me. I grabbed my shoulders as if I were cold and alone in the dark. Then, letting the music take me over, I was moving all over the room. During the instrumental break of the song, I began to dance as if lightning, fire, wind, water, and finally the earth were attacking me.

When I finished dancing, everyone had so many different expressions on their faces—even before they clapped. Many people told me that they could understand me and feel me.

From that day forward, I went on to learn other “languages of dance"—like African, ballet, and so much more. Soon I began to teach these languages to others. Dance is so powerful. Not only does it have the ability to bring people together, but it also has the power to heal.

I dance because I'm happy. I dance because I'm free. Lordy hallelujah, for the spirit of dance has saved me!

Latest Posts

Luc Delahaye, Courtesy Gordon & Setterfield

Dance Magazine Award Honorees: David Gordon & Valda Setterfield

How to frame two lifetimes of work as broad and vibrant as that of choreographer David Gordon and performer Valda Setterfield? When onstage together, an invisible tether connects them, whether they're kibitzing, chiding, flirting or embracing a sense of melancholy.

Ailey II artistic director Troy Powell teaching an Ailey Workshop at NYCDA. Courtesy NYCDA

NYCDA Is Redefining the Convention Scene Through Life-Changing Opportunities

Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.

"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."

Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.

Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:

Stella Abrera in Alexei Ratmansky's The Seasons. Rosalie O'Connor, Courtesy ABT.

Stella Abrera to Take on New Role as Artistic Director of Kaatsbaan

Yesterday, Kaatsbaan, the Tivoli, NY-based cultural park for dance, announced that Stella Abrera will join the organization as its new artistic director, effective January 1. This news come just weeks after we learned that Abrera will be taking her final bow with American Ballet Theatre in June.

Enter Our Video Contest