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A BALLET OF HANDS


ballet2 bilinguism at carlos cano seconary school
Bilinguism at Carlos Cano Secondary School

The happy chatter of families, an occasional shriek from a child, and over it all, the ballet of hands celebrating the occasion.

The California School For the Deaf high school class of 2014 graduated 42 happy young students ready to take on the world. As friends of the family of one young lady, we were privileged to attend the event, where many scholarships and honors were awarded.

The school for deaf and blind was originally in Berkeley, located quite near the campus of the University and was moved to Fremont in 1979. Since then we have become accustomed to seeing blind and hearing-impaired people going about their business throughout town. The school provides home and education for children throughout Northern California from the ages of 3-22.
We talked with the mother of a 20 year old graduate yesterday who has lived at the school for 10 years.

I first became aware of the graceful beauty of sign language while following a car with several non-hearing people conversing, and realized it is like a ballet of hands. In my teaching life, I occasionally had a deaf person, with an interpreter handy to translate my garbled lesson. (grin) At a celebratory party after the graduation, several interpreters were present to help those of us who were limited by our “mono-lingual” condition.

ballet 1  Marc Petrocci   simpl;y sammy
Marc Petrocci “Simply Sammy”

During our meandering through the campus, we came upon a large bronze sculpture by Douglas Tilden, a scion of an early California family. Tilden became deaf at the age of four, and attended CSD in Berkeley where he taught at the school after graduation. He began doing sculpture while attending the school, and then went to France where he studied with another deaf sculptor. His monumental pieces can be seen all over the world.

bear hunt douglas tilden
“Bear Hunt” by Douglas Tilden

Sculpture seems to be an appropriate medium for a deaf person, since their words are expressed with their hands.

“If my hands could speak they would say something profound.”

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13 comments on “A BALLET OF HANDS

  1. That’s a lovely metaphor, Katy ! 🙂

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  2. Very good as always. Thank you Kayti.

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  3. Thanks Gerard. It was a very fun day. Very energizing to be among all these spirited young people.

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  4. We express ourselves through body movement all the tiime. Speaking is body movement – it is simply convenient that it is through hearing that we appreciate it.

    The achievements of the school and its graduates demonstrate how by determination and dedicated help such inconveniences need be no bar to a full life. It is our association with others, principally, that leads to a full life.

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  5. “A ballet of hands” is an apt metaphor for sign language in the hands (literally) of the deaf. I seem to remember there is a lovely park in Berkeley called “Tilden Park”.

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  6. Douglas Tilden was part of that family of course. I was close to part of the family, and possess memorabilia from them. A small silver dinner bell which would have belonged to his great-grandmother, a cane carved by Japanese and given to Judge Tilden in early years plus others. Laura Whipple was an early settler in Fremont (from Oakland) and she was a Tilden on her mother’s side. She was mentioned in my post “The Green Elephant”. Interesting how families interact. I

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  7. Wonderful memories of Tilden Park. I used to see it nearly every day. And I was in Berkeley when the school moved. I remember the publicity, just as I remember sharing cafés on Euclid with students from the school. It was my first time to be among highly functioning people with an assortment of disabilities, and it was quite eye-opening.

    I love the ballet metaphor. It’s just perfect.

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  8. We always walked through the school grounds on the way to Cal games. I find it ironic that the University always prized that property and was able to have it when it was decided that it rested on an earthquake fault. So they moved it to Fremont and located it on top of another earthquake fault.

    My husband played golf at Tilden part when he was a boy. We also went to a couple of dances at the Brazilian Room there. On one occasion it was so foggy I walked alongside the car so we wouldn’t fall off the edge!

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