Former Miss Deaf South Africa and professional ballerina, Simoné Botha (25) is set to take centre stage, performing the lead role in Spartacus of Africa, a ballet that will première at the Artscape this Saturday, the 27th of June.
'I don't hear the rhythm'
When Simoné dances in the spotlight, she will be unable to hear the music as well as the audience watching her.
To help her, two of the dancers in the corps will stand on either side of the stage and perform the hand movements of the female lead Phrygia’s solos along with her. “I will watch them from the corner of my eye to make sure I keep up,” says Botha who was born deaf.
At 22 months old, Simoné was the youngest baby in Africa to receive cochlear implants, allowing her to faintly hear the music she has to dance to.
“I can, however, for example not distinguish between the different instruments being played. I cannot hear if it is a violin or a piano. I also don’t hear the rhythm. I need to count in my head to keep in step.”
She’s wearing a light-green leotard and a pair of dark-blue tracksuit pants outside one of the rehearsal rooms of the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) dance school.
Read: Cochlear implants aid adults with hearing loss
Beauty queen and ballerina Simoné Botha was crowned Miss Deaf South Africa in 2012
Her feet started itching
Her hair is in a tight plait, squeezed into a bun behind her head, and her hearing aid is clearly visible. She speaks without any trouble with just a trace of a lisp and the occasional “brei” that slips through.
When, as a toddler, she watched her older sister Elnette dancing in a tutu in ballet class, her feet started itching to get into ballet shoes.
Elnette was also born deaf. “I couldn’t really hear the music, but I turned towards the mirror and did the hand movements with the class.
“Then, at the tender age of two, the teacher allowed me to dance along with the others in the back row.”
Read: Types of hearing aid
Don't feel sorry for yourself
“Deaf, and wanting to dance for a living? No, rather go for something else,” she was told over and over as a teenager.
“In some of my dancing examinations, some of the examiner actually gave me poor scores to discourage me from becoming a professional dancer. They thought I wouldn’t be able to handle it.”
But giving up was not an option for this resourceful girl.
And this is her message on this year’s Casual Day on 4 September. She is also this year’s Cape Town Casual Day ambassador.
“I don’t only want to tell people about other people with handicaps. I want to say to the handicapped: “There’s no reason feel sorry for yourself and complain about your fate. If something grabs you, go for it."
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