BEAVER DAM, WI (WMTV/GRAY NEWS) – At 12 years old, Manny Wilke is already lighting up dance floors.
At a regional dance competition over the weekend, he received the highest scores in one division for both his hip-hop and tap solos. Manny’s hip-hop solo got second overall in the “Elite” division.
“I was just meant to do it,” Manny said of his dancing. “It’s what I enjoy.”
But his journey to top-notch dancer hasn’t always been easy. Just being able to hear the music was a challenge he had to overcome.
Manny was born deaf.
“Nate (Manny’s dad) looks at me and said, ‘Where are his ears?’ and I was like, ‘What do you mean?’” mom Tiffany Wilke said.
The star dancer has a rare birth defect.
“Manny was born microtia and atresia which means he was born without outer ears and closed ear canals,” Wilke said.
Her son wears a hearing aid attached to his skull.
“Without his hearing aids, he can’t hear at all,” she said.
Manny’s had multiple surgeries to reconstruct his outer ears, but his ear canals remain shut.
Despite his condition, Manny’s mom wanted to make sure he could just be a kid.
“He always loved music, so we started him in dance class when he was 18 months old to teach him how to hear,” Wilke said.
That’s when the music took over.
“My hearing, I don’t think it’s a problem because for some reason, the speakers, they come right in my face and it beats my head and I’m like, ‘OK, yeah, this is -- oh yeah!” Manny said.
His hard work and determination were on display over the weekend at the Starbound National Talent Competition in Middleton, WI, a Madison suburb.
His dance instructor said Manny impresses him every day at practice.
“I don’t think it’s a disability at all, if anything it makes him work harder,” Elite Dance Centre owner Scott Busse said. “He like feels the vibrations almost. Like he knows exactly what is happening.”
Manny’s an advanced dancer at the school, taking every class he can be in. He performs his own solo routines and does group dances too.
“It doesn’t matter what you do or how you do it, it’s just what you want to do,” Manny said.