Watch the ABC’s Australian Story tonight to see Alexander Campbell and Steven McRae featured for their incredible rise to success, both becoming principal dancers at The Royal Ballet in London’s famous Covent Garden. They were both boys from Western Sydney who finessed their dancing talents through many years of hard work. Alexander’s achievements as one of the world’s most acclaimed dancers are particularly inspiring, given he identifies as deaf.
As journalist Rebecca Baillie writes, ‘For the first time publicly he has revealed to Australian Story that he needs hearing aids, although he admits he doesn’t wear them all the time.
“I am actually quite deaf,” he says.
Alexander has lived with a significant hearing loss since birth but it wasn’t until he was 23 that the full extent of his hearing loss was discovered — he had around 40 per cent below average hearing.
Being a dancer who can’t hear is like being a visual artist who can’t see and Alexander has had to adapt the way he works.
He says that when the orchestra is below him “playing full pelt”, he can usually hear the music. But when he’s waiting in the wings he often takes his cues from fellow dancers tapping him on the shoulder, or pushing him forward onto stage.
“Most of the times it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes my anxiety levels go up when I think, ‘Oh no, I can’t hear that’,” Alexander says.
His boss, Royal Ballet director Kevin O’Hare, was amazed when he recently learnt of Alexander’s hearing deficit.
“It took my breath away,” he says.
“Alexander’s a very innately musical dancer. Maybe having worked through this lack of hearing has made him much more aware than most people are of music, and dancing with the music.”‘
Watch Australian Story’s Leap of Faith 8pm 19 February (AEDT) on ABC TV and ABC iview. The full program will be captioned.