Combining Dance and Sign Language: Local Dance Company Gives Back

By Kellie Edson

Kellie Edson
Kellie Edson

The breadth of arts, culture and theater performances we have here in Sacramento continues to astound me. Sacramento Contemporary Dance Theatre is new on the scene here in Sacramento having just celebrated their one-year anniversary last month.  

I heard about them through my childhood friend who is a dancer in the company.  Their mission and the kind of shows that they produce are so unique, I really wanted to share their story with our GOTG readers.

First, I just really, really love their mission:

“The company’s collective desire is to make a difference in the Greater Sacramento region by giving back to the community through championing the causes of other local non-profits while sharing their passion and love through the medium of dance.”

So great, right?

Their previous show Resilience benefited UC Davis Med Center’s cancer research program.  They will be performing Resilience again in the fall.

But what they have coming up this weekend on June 3rd and 4th is Sign of Life which will benefit the Nor Cal Center’s Camp Grizzly.  Camp Grizzly is a camp specifically for the deaf and hard of hearing community’s children. Both children who are deaf themselves and those that are hearing but have deaf parents attend.  The specialized camp allows these kids come together, socialize, and connect with their community.

I got to sit down with director Jacob Montoya and the SCDT company during one of their rehearsals last week, and it’s a really special group.

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What made you start Sacramento Contemporary Dance Theatre?

I really wanted to expand from just working with kids. I’ve been working with the Hawkins School for a long time and I wanted to work with passionate dancers and give back to the community.

How did you decide to choreograph Sign of Life?

It’s funny, I actually just had an idea to do a Charlie Chaplin song, which is still in the show and it just spiraled from there. I contacted my friend who’s active in the sign language community and said ‘hey, would you want to do a whole show with this?’ He said yes, and here we are.  I’m really proud of what it’s become.

Why do you think Sign of Life is an important show?

There are so many reasons.  I think the combination of dance and sign language adds such a layer of communication for the audience. Whether they are hearing or not, it makes it even more powerful.  It may encourage people to get more involved with the deaf community, or learn more about sign language. Heck, we’ve only been working on the show for a few months and we’ve all learned SO much already.

The deaf community doesn’t really get to see dance and art in general in this way, so it’s really amazing for us to be able to witness them connecting with it.  We’ve had some advisors for the show from the deaf community cry just watching the rehearsals.

One of Jacob’s dancers chimed in saying:

“What better thing is there in life than to be of service to other people?”

That’s it right there, Jacob said, these dancers are passionate and selfless in their giving of themselves for these causes.  I’m really proud of them.

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The company is comprised of nine dancers, and Jacob’s youth company through the Hawkins School of Dance will be performing a song as well. There will be a live opera singer for one piece and an eclectic mix of beautiful music at the performance.

I know Folsom is a bit of a drive off the grid, but it will be a great show, something unique to do with your weekend and you’ll be supporting a fantastic cause at the same time!  

Tickets are $20 online and will be $25 at the door with performances June 3rd at 7:30pm and June 4th at 2pm and 7:30pm at the Jill Solberg Theater in Folsom.

I’ll be there on the 3rd, come say hi if you make it out there!

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