Artist of the Month: Antoine Hunter

Artist of the Month: Antoine Hunter

​by Silva Laukkanen

“It’s not how high you kick, but why you kick!”

Antoine Hunter photo

Antoine Hunter, also known as Purple Fire Crow, is an award-winning, internationally known African-American, Indigenous, Deaf, Disabled, choreographer, dancer, actor, instructor, speaker, producer and Deaf advocate.

I met Antoine for the first time when he gave a keynote at the VSA Intersections in Austin, Texas, in 2017. I remember when he spoke about the power of movement and dance as a way of communicating, and that resonated with me. Part of his keynote included the story of how, in 2013, he founded the Bay Area International Deaf Dance Festival in San Francisco and that after all these years, the festival now includes Deaf and Hard of Hearing Dance artists from 22 different countries.

One of my dreams is that one of these years I will be able to participate in this festival which offers workshops and performances, and highlights the important contributions of Deaf and Hard of Hearing (HoH) artists, as the festival’s mission statement reads. I want to experience more of the communication method which Mr. Hunter so eloquently practices.

Urban Jazz Dance Company

Antoine is the founder and artistic director of the Urban Jazz Dance Company based in Oakland, California. For over a decade, the company has produced works for stage and for film, teaching workshops nationally and internationally for people of all ages and abilities. As Antoine puts it, “Urban Jazz Dance Company is a convergence of artistic forces where RAW energy, ROOTED in FREEDOM, is expressed through the athletic BODY and UNCONTROLLABLE, PASSIONATE dance.”

I witnessed the uncontrollable, passionate dance part at the conference in Austin when Body Shift Collective had just finished their performance at the conference. When we had cleared the stage, Antoine jumped on it and performed an abrupt solo dance that was very light, yet vigorous.
This is one of the things that I appreciate about him. You can see, feel and sense his passion towards his work. He is always ready to share a dance, teach you a sign or tell you a story–and he always does it with that big smile on his face.

In an interview for the “Discussing Disability in Dance” book he relates a story of a fall he took during his audition at the California Institute for the Arts. “I had this serious look on my face, dancing so intently, and then I fell with a big smile on my face.” Apparently, the fall did not impede his being accepted, as he graduated from the program four years later!
Come feel the joy of Antoine in this month’s Virtual Elements class on Saturday, August 8th and 22nd at 2:30-3:30pm CST. Click here for more information.

Class description from Urban Jazz Dance Company:

Does your spirit feel like something is missing, do you need a place to express yourself, want to build a stronger core physically and spiritually without overextending yourself, and need to dance? Then you came to the right place. Beginner or professional, this class is for everyone. “It’s not how high you kick but why you kick!” Expect Ballet, Afro movement, and more plus American Sign Language… the power of expression must be real. Taught by Award-winning Deaf Dancer Antoine Hunter, hearing, Deaf and ALL are welcome to take the class!

Three people striking dance poses.
Dany Casey, Antoine Hunter and Silva Laukkanen at the VSA Intersections Conference in Austin in 2017

Community Conversations

Antoine will also be our guest on Art Spark Texas’ Community Conversation on Wednesday, August 26th at 7:00-8:00 PM CDT. Stay informed about how you can join us for the event on our Facebook page. Both Virtual Elements Classes and the Community Conversation will have ASL interpreting provided. I hope to see you there!

Additional Information

  • Antoine Hunter creates opportunities for Disabled, Deaf and hearing artists and produces Deaf-friendly events, and founded the Urban Jazz Dance Company and Bay Area International Deaf Dance Festival.
  • Antoine has received numerous grants and awards including the inaugural Jeanette Lomujo Bremond Award for Humanity, the Isadora Duncan (Izzie) for Bay Area International Deaf Dance Festival, and the SF King of Carnaval.
  • Antoine’s work has been performed globally, most recently in Turkey, UK and Russia. He has lectured across the U.S. including at Kennedy Center’s VSA, Harvard and Duke University, and the National Assembly of State Arts. In 2019 alone, his company Urban Jazz Dance Company, an ensemble of professional Deaf and Hearing dancers, performed for, and engaged more than 4,200 schoolchildren. His shoe company DropLabs and Susan Paley just released an innovative product to help people feel music through their shoes. He is Vice President of Deaf Counseling, Advocacy and Referral Agency (DCARA’s) Board. More about Antoine here.


​Silva Laukkanen

Director Of Integrated Dance

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