Christopher Fonseca
Courtesy Photo

Deaf Dancer Chris Fonseca Teaches Students How To #KeepItMoving

One VIBE writer spent a May evening taking a special dance class lead by a remarkable performer as part of Smirnoff Ice’s “Electric Flavors” rollout.

I walked into Kore New York in Manhattan’s meatpacking-district on a humid Tuesday in early-May, excited to take a very special dance class. The class was physical, emotional and ended up being more inspiring than I could have ever imagined. I’ve taken a few dance classes in my day, but this is for sure one of the most memorable.

After a case of meningitis as a child left him completely deaf, London-based dancer and choreographer Chris Fonseca has defied the odds by continuing to dance and teach despite his impairment. Now, he’s fulfilling one of his dreams of teaching hip-hop dance in both the U.S. and Europe as part of Smirnoff Ice’s “Keep It Moving” campaign, which corresponds with the rollout of their new line of malt beverages, “Electric Flavors.”
“Smirnoff’s hashtag [#KeepItMoving] I think adds to the fact that dance is a universal language,” said Fonseca in regards to the importance of dancing highlighted through the campaign. He spoke to me via an interpreter, who relayed the message to another interpreter since sign language across the pond is slightly different from sign language here in the States.

The attraction that Fonseca has to hip-hop is magnetic. Since he’s unable to hear the music, Fonseca uses vibrations from the heavy bass to count the music while he teaches so that he can stay on beat. “I love hip-hop music because the bass is so strong on it, and I just love that,” he explained. “The structure of the rhythm is something that I really connect to easily. All it takes is one beat, and I’m there!”

Among the photographers and videographers who were crowded into the small-yet-intimate exercise room were some of my fellow classmates for the evening. I stretched beside CJ Salvador, a dancer for Justin Bieber, and chatted with Jeremy Strong, a choreographer for Jason DeRulo. There was also a budding photographer in the mix, Bekka Gunther, who was both excited and anxious to take the class. “I’m comfortable dancing and moving my hips and dancing in my own way, but I’m not comfortable with choreography,” she said bashfully. “This will be a really fun class.”

There were a handful of students in the class who are hearing-impaired, however, much like Fonseca, they’re not letting their disability throw off their groove. A student named Mara Ladines was a cheerleader in high school and on a dance team in college- the only member on these teams who could not hear. Although she fell out of a regular dance routine, she said watching someone like Chris chase his dreams is inspiring to watch.

“I know it’s not an easy thing to do,” she noted. “There’s a lot of hearing people who think that deaf people aren’t able [to dance], and he has that persistence and I admire that. I encourage him to keep going and don’t let the world take him down! Defy odds! Break those barriers!”

I watched as Fonseca prepared for the class by freestyle dancing to the beat he’ll use for the combination. Despite his modern day hip-hop attire of jogger pants and a gray snapback, he’s got a very old school flair to his dancing, likely due to his love for the film Breakin’, a movie he watched as a child that cemented his love for the style.

After a quick warm-up, Fonseca taught the class how to count the beat through vibrations, so that they could stay in time with the beat. The music was blasting so that the bass was heavy enough for every student- especially those with a hearing impairment- to feel (he playfully noted that for a deaf person, trying to catch the beat solely through vibrations is like “trying to connect to wifi”). The class consisted of over 25 people, and we learned a full dance that gave off an old school essence (complete with the *real* Running Man).

Later on, we were treated to refreshments and complimentary bottles of Smirnoff Ice’s new Electric Berry and Electric Mandarin drinks. The new Electric Flavors are non-carbonated and come in a plastic bottle rather than a glass one, so partygoers are able to hit the dance floor without worrying about what could happen to their drink. The “Keep It Moving” campaign was created with individuals in mind who want to swig and shake it at the same time.

“Smirnoff ICE Electric Flavors were born out of the insight that adults previously had to choose between the dance floor and their drink,” says Heather Boyd, Brand Director of Flavored Malt Beverages, Diageo-Guinness USA. “This product allows people to do both simultaneously.”

The campaign also features Baddie Winkle, an 87-year-old taking the Internet by storm with her vibrant personality and infectious moves. She and Fonseca have something in common- they both love to dance despite society’s belief that her age and his disability would deter them from doing so.

“People focus on deaf people having an impairment on their ability to hear, and they let that define their ability,” said Fonseca. “But really, if you just saw their skills, that would show what they can do. I would like to see more deaf people be involved in all the performing arts- music, theater, dance- because it’s an art, and deaf people like art as well.”

Dance has proven to Fonseca that, mentally, he is stronger than he knows. He is also aware of the power of dancing, and how the art form takes more than just what someone is able to do physically. “The beauty is that it [dance] doesn’t have anything to do with the ability to speak, the ability to hear, what you know,” he acknowledges. “Instead it’s about that expression that comes from your heart.” When I ask him what has been his mantra throughout this entire experience, he points to the fogged-up mirror and smiles at the quote plastered upon it.

How do you know if you don’t try?” the mirror-cling read.

“That’s my motto, it’s that simple, and what I learned about this process is that dreams don’t work unless you do it, so, dream it, believe it and achieve it.”

From the Web

More on Vibe

Getty Images

Kid Cudi Announces Eminem Collaboration, "The Adventures Of Moon Man And Slim Shady”

Kid Cudi and Eminem are releasing a new single, "The Adventures of Moon Man and Slim Shady,” scheduled to drop this Friday (July 10).

Cudster’s daughter, Vada, announced the news in an adorable video posted to his Twitter account on Wednesday (July 8).

And now a word from Princess Vada the chosen... pic.twitter.com/xmgIMkUntz

— The Chosen One (@KidCudi) July 8, 2020

Besides working with Eminem, Cudi collaborated with Kanye West on an upcoming Kids See Ghost animated series. Additionally, the Ohio native is gearing up to debut an animated Netflix series, Entergalactic, based off his upcoming concept album of the same name. Cudi will executive produce the series along with Kenya Barris.

The 36-year-old rapper and actor will also appear in the HBO mini-series, We Are Who We Are. The coming-of-age story centers around two teenagers living on an American military base in Italy.

Watch the trailer below.

 

Continue Reading
Jason Connolly / AFP via Getty Images

'New York Times' And FX Team For Breonna Taylor Documentary

The New York Times is producing a Breonna Taylor documentary, set to air on FX and Hulu later this year. Taylor’s story will be the focus of an installment of The New York Times Presents, a 10-episode Friday-night series, with each episode covering a different topic.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, NYT writer Rukmini Callimachi and director Yoruba Richen will explore Taylor’s story, including the investigation into her death.

The 26-year-old EMT was shot and killed in March by Louisville Metro Police officers while sleeping in her apartment. LMP Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, officer Myles Cosgrove, and Brett Hankison, have yet to be charged or arrested for killing Taylor. Hankison was fired from the police department last month.

The no-knock warrant that police claim they were executing at the time of the fatal shooting, was a part of a larger gentrification plan, lawyers for Taylor’s family argued in a legal complaint filed last week in connection with an ongoing lawsuit against the officers.

Taylor had no criminal history. According to the legal papers, narcotics investigators were “deliberately misled”  to her home by a police squad. A spokesperson for Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has denied the allegations.

While it’s unclear when Taylor’s story will be featured on The New York Times Presents, the first episode in the series, premieres on Friday (July 10). The episode covers the doctors and nurses working in New York at the height of the COVID-19 outbreak. Episode two, which follows 24-year-old recording artist, Dominic Fike, premieres on Friday, August 7.

 

Continue Reading
Getty Images

Young Thug Blasts Pusha T For Dissing Drake On Leaked Pop Smoke Song

Young Thug isn’t mincing words when it comes to his opinion on Pusha T dissing Drake on a leaked song that was set to appear on Pop Smoke’s posthumous album, Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon.

After the song, “Paranoia,” surfaced online this past weekend, Thugger made it clear that he didn’t know King Push was going to diss Drake on the track, which features him and Gunna.

“I don’t respect the Pusha T verse on the song with me and Gunna [because] I don’t have [nothing] to do with ya’ll beef nor does Gunna, and if I knew that was about him I would’ve made changes on our behalf..the rapper s**t so gay,” Thugger wrote on his Instagram Story early Tuesday (July 7).

“Don’t feel bad, NOBODY knew what the verse was [about],” Pusha responded in one of multiple posts accusing Drake of snitching to the record label to get the song pulled from Pop Smoke's album. “The label heads that stopped it didn’t even know. They ONLY ASSUME because HE [Drake] TOLD them! The same way HE TOLD [about] the Ross ‘Maybach 6’ verse. And if HE’LL TELL record executives [about] rap verses, God only knows what else HE’LL TELL! I don’t deal in police work, police rappers or police n**gas!!!!"

AYO PUSHA T IS SNAPPINNN ON YOUNG THUG RIGHT NOW 😭😭😭 pic.twitter.com/3VHgeg9xFp

— King Wow (@wowthatshiphop) July 7, 2020

Thugger went back on Instagram and blasted Pusha for having a “weak” verse.

“First of all your verse is 7 days…that muthafucka’ weak,” he said. “Second of all, you already went crazy the first time...it an’t nothing but a sucka [move]... going on double takes, triple takes, and quadruple takes. You should’ve just got all of it out when you put the first song out.

“You didn’t even have to do all that. You just felt like you wasn’t gonna get enough views on your own s**t so you came and put some bulls**t on a n**gga' who’s resting in peace’s music. Trying to f**k up a n**ga' a whole vibe. Why the f**k you ain’t do that s**t on your own song?” ”

Young Thug responds to Pusha T for Dissing Drake on Pop Smoke Song pic.twitter.com/7KNMbiU535

— Kollege Kidd (@KollegeKidd) July 8, 2020

On “Paranoia,” the Virginia MC goes at Drake for making “empty threats,” and his tendency to rap in different accents.

“You know reality bites, it’s chess, not checkers,” raps Pusha. “Those empty threats only sound good on your records/If the patois is not followed by a Blocka/It’s like Marked for Death Screwface, without the choppa/Let ’em rush the stage when you made like Sinatra/Only to hide the blade flyin’ back through LaGuardia/I might even buy a home out in Mississauga [Canada].”

Pusha previously dissed Drake on 2018’s , “The Story of Adidon,” where he revealed to the world that the Toronto rapper had a son. Drake later admitted that he had a son on the track “Emotionless” off his Scorpion album.

Continue Reading

Top Stories