Joseph Templin or Joe is an American teenager who loves to dance. He knows how to do a moonwalk, a swing, a twirl – all popular dance steps. The minute the music begins to flow, this lanky but handsome nineteen-year old, is all charged-up and itching to dance .

Nothing is extraordinary about this except for one little fact. Joseph is profoundly deaf. Which means that he cannot hear a note of the music he dances to so beautifully.

Don't Stop the Music, I Want to Dance [Illustration by Kusum Chamoli]
Don’t Stop the Music, I Want to Dance [Illustration by Kusum Chamoli]

Still, something almost physical happens to him when music is played. He senses a change in the air’s energy when it comes. “The nothing is replaced by something,” Joe says to the LATWP Svc feature service, which wrote a report on him. The Times of India carried the report recently.

It is this “something” that makes him such a good dancer. So good that he is all set to participate in a tough dance competition beginning late September, in Washington.

Joe was a baby when he was struck by meningitis, a serious illness affecting children. The illness took his hearing. His poor family, living in Sao Paulo in Brazil, could not afford too many medications for him either. Then when he was three, Joe was adopted by an American couple, the Templins, and brought to Northern Virginia.

Now, the Templins are an unusual family. They have adopted 11 of their 14 children, from countries as far away as Korea and Guatemala. The Templins believe that every one of their children is special. And that no handicap could hold a child back from doing what he wanted to. Joseph remembers the house ethos being simple: You will do everything that other kids do. Nothing can hold you back.

Joe took this ethos to heart. As a child watching television, he liked to study the movements of dancers. Until one day he thought, I could try this myself. He started by mimicking the dance steps of pop star Michael Jackson. Followed by the dance-steps of other dancers. After a while he didn’t bother looking at the screen. He began to sense on his own what the next step would be.

He obviously had that ‘something’, even then. That sixth sense which, coupled with nimble feet and good reflexes, makes him an absolute delight on the dance floor.

None agrees with this more than Debra Sternberg, Joe’s dance partner. Debra, a dance instructor, was impressed by Joe’s natural flair and grace when she saw him dancing first. She hasn’t stopped being impressed. And that is why when the Virginia State Open swing dance competition was announced, she entered their names as partners.

Joe is happy at this chance to display his dancing skills to a national audience. After the competition he intends to start going to college. He wants to take up a career in computer web design. Life is good, Joe feels. He only wishes that he can stop people from seeing him as the deaf boy who can dance. He only wants to be known as the boy who can dance.

521 words | 5 minutes
Readability: Grade 6 (11-12 year old children)
Based on Flesch–Kincaid readability scores

Filed under: features
Tags: #dancers, #virginia, #dance

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