Brooklyn Nets Kids dancer defies odds, performs despite of severe hearing loss

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By Elizabeth Murray

Every year, more than 500 kids aged 9-14 try out for the Brooklyn Nets Kids, a dance team comprised of 15 young dancers that perform at Brooklyn Nets games at the Barclay's Center throughout the season.

Vako Gvelesiani is heading into his second year with the team, making the cut of 15 dancers twice. 

"When they told me I made it, it was the biggest moment of my life," Vako told TODAY.

A feat that is even more amazing considering that Vako suffers from severe hearing loss, and can only hear the beats of the music he dances to.

"When I listen to music, I only hear the beat, I can't hear the lyrics," Vako said. "But like to me, I think, you're not supposed to hear the music you're supposed to feel the music."

Vako began losing his hearing when he was only 2 years old. While suffering from a 104-degree fever, his mother, Irma said, he started asking his parents to increase the volume of the television. A trip to the doctor revealed that Vako had hearing loss. The diagnosis, Vako said, was "a shock."

When Vako first auditioned for, and made, the Brooklyn Nets Kids, he kept his hearing loss a secret, hiding his hearing aids beneath his long hair. He didn't tell others that he couldn't hear the music, and when the music came on and it was time to dance, he didn't have to. 

"I was like, this is a little Williamsburgy cool guy who has some really smooth moves," Vako's coach, Tanisha Scott said. "Every time the music came on, he just lit up. I was like, we need this kid."

But soon, during rehearsals, Scott realized that something wasn't right. "They kept saying I wasn't listening," Vako said. "So I knew I had to tell them that I had hearing loss."

Scott said she was shocked, but, she said, that certain things started to make sense, such as Vako's preference to rehearse in the back of the class.  

Vako is now a freshman at New York City's prestigious LaGuardia High School, which specializes in performing arts and touts alumni such as Nicki Minaj and Jennifer Aniston.

"I learn so much from Vako," Scott said. "I hope he becomes everything he couldn't expect himself to be, and continues to be a good example for kids just like him."

"When I see him dancing, I'm still crying," Vako's mom said. "He makes me very proud."