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Dancing partner will be Matlin’s ‘music’

From the Associated Press

Marlee Matlin had never danced before -- well, other than at weddings and bar mitzvahs -- but for the last two weeks, she’s been cha-cha-ing and quickstepping for seven hours a day in preparation for her “Dancing With the Stars” debut tonight.

Despite the unforgiving schedule and complaints of constant soreness from past contestants, Matlin, 42, says she’s remained pain-free.

“Everyone asks if I’m sore,” she said after a recent rehearsal at a dance studio in La Canada Flintridge. “Am I supposed to be sore?”

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Perhaps not. She is, however, supposed to step, twirl, dip, smile, clap, spin, plant and jump in time with the music. Never mind that the Academy Award-winning actress can’t hear a single note, beat or tempo change.

While none of this year’s crop of “Dancing” hopefuls has ever danced professionally, Matlin has the additional challenge of being deaf. And that’s not a problem, she said through her longtime interpreter, Jack Jason.

Matlin relies on her professional partner, show newcomer Fabian Sanchez, to lead the way.

“He’s my music,” she said.

Sanchez has modified some of the dances slightly so he and Matlin maintain more physical or visual contact than they otherwise might.

But even when she steps out solo, “she’s got a natural rhythm,” he said. “She’s on time every single time.”

The dance instructor from Birmingham, Ala., had never worked with a deaf student before, but he finds Matlin easier to teach than many who can hear.

“I have somebody who has never danced, who has never heard music, so I can mold her however I want,” he said. “She’s more sensitive to my lead because she’s not trying to follow the rhythm on her own.”

Matlin said she didn’t join the show to prove that deaf people can dance. But one of her four children is a big fan of “Dancing.” “I just want to be the cool mom,” she said.


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