Co-existence of disability and dance has been proven by disabled dancers. In past decades, performance of disabled dancers has become an inspirational entertainment for disabled and non-disabled audiences. Therefore, people are interested in disabled people's ability to dance and how they overcome challenges of disability barriers.
By Malika-Budur Kalila
Have you ever seen a disabled person dancing? Nowadays, seeing people in wheelchairs is not as shocking as a few decades ago. Nevertheless, even today, dancers with disabilities appear in peoples' minds as surprising and inspiring artists.
Along with admiration and surprise, questions like how do they learn to dance, what motivates them to do it and how did they overcome this challenge come together while watching performances of disabled people.
Dancing with disabilities needs a lot of practice, encouragement and patience. A starting point for a disabled person does not start with a question, "Do I want to do it," or " Shall I dance," but with the question, "How will I overcome it."
Before letting the audience accept them, first of all, disabled people should accept themselves.
Next step is to identify the power and desire of the inner driving force. If disabled people have enough motivation, then they are able to find strength to achieve their aim and get to the performance stage. As was noted above, the driving force should be enough to get till the finish.
So, what is the motivation for a disabled person, what is the fuel that drives them? Dream, inspiration, fame or activity? Most of the disabled dancers answered to this question as passion, physical therapy, self-expression and willingness to add diversity to the dance. These motivational tools push forward disabled people to dance.
Dancing is known as an activity, which requires a lot physical effort and practice. Pursuing dancing as a career might be challenging as well as very difficult lifestyle for a disabled person. Despite that fact, in recent decades, the amount of disabled dancers has importantly increased.
Does this mean that dance provides satisfaction and inner fulfillment to disabled people or is it easy to get used to dancing actions?
Disabled dancers believe every dance is unique. However, rules and movements of every dance can be adopted for disabled people. Although the dance and disability contradict each other, in fact, they may co-exist.
Another reason of increase in disabled dancing performance is that audience has shown a great interest in dancers who overcome the barrier of disability and achieved the role on the stage. Muscular men and slim women performing on stage have been ordinary performance for audience. Usual dancers have to meet audience's expectation by their good-looking appearance and covering the physical hardship by smile on their face.
However, when disabled people dance, they do not cover their emotion and difficulties they feel. Seeing the effort performers are making gives the audience more pleasure than "staring" to the beautiful body.
"When the dancers are asked to create something that has never been seen before, disabled dancers can often find beautiful, rare and unusual movement that will excite audiences," said Lucy Bennet, artistic director at Stopgap Dance Company.
Consequently, demand for disabled dancers' performance have brought new professional teachers and organizations, which offered disabled people more opportunities for dancing. Furthermore, disability and dance co-worked in order to give to disabled people a chance to dance. Disability itself has added creativity as well as diversity to the dance industry.
Writer of access magazine.com Philippa Willitts claims, "Just as dance can have many benefits for disabled people, so disabled people can bring many new and inventive approaches to dance in return. With an increasing number of professional dancers, choreographers and production companies seeking to involve a diverse range of artists in their work, the field is becoming richer and more rewarding to explore than ever before."
Thus, uniting disability and dance makes both sides better off as well as helps the society to break stereotypes against disabled people. Also, when a disabled person dance, he or she creates movements, which non-disabled person cannot do. In other words, disabled person may turn his physical disadvantage into an advantage by diversifying and adding extraordinary movements to the dance. This gives a chance to the disabled person to feel the positive impact on the dance and offers him or her a new "ability" which can be performed in a creative way.
Moreover, increasing number of choreographers and teachers for disabled people have created groups where disabled people can express themselves easier by sharing the common environment with people who share similar difficulties.
As disabled dancers say, a group of people who truly understand disabled people give them motivation and support to dance. For example, Katy Nicholson, 31, who took up on wheelchair dance four years ago, says, " There's less of a sense that you're different from everybody else - especially when you're with a group of people that you're used to dancing with, who know your limits and what you can and can't do."
Similarly, Bennet underlines the importance of group works by saying, "The sensation of dancing together and being part of a community can be both exhilarating and comforting."
For most of the times, dancing has been important entertainment for the audience as well as for dancers themselves. However, dancing with disabilities made the dance more like an inspiration rather than an entertainment. Disabled dancers have power to impress the audience who also have disabilities, whereas ordinary dancers' performances may remind to disabled people about physical "inequalities."
For instance, according to carrotplus.com magazine, dancing performances of three most successful disabled dancers (George Exantus, David Toole, Jean Sok) have been motivation and hope to a lot of disabled people.
Exantus is a professional dancer who lost his right leg during the earthquake in his hometown of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Despite his disability, he succeeded to continue his dancing career with one leg.
Toole was born without legs, but he chose his career in the world of dance. Nowadays, he is a well-known British dancer and earns his living by performing dances.
The third hero of disabled dancers is Sok. He became famous on Billboard Awards, where he performed a breakdance. Currently, Sok owns awards "Cirque du Soleil: Michael Jackson the Immortal World Tour & Michael Jackson One," "R16," "Battle of the Year," "Chelles Battle Pro" and "The Notorious IBE."
In his Facebook account, Sok says, "Never give up. Believe in your dreams. ... (This) is more than a motto for me, it's my way of life."
Everyday, new heroes of disabled dancers emerge. They overcome challenges and hardships of disability barriers. They combine characteristics of two different worlds of disability and dance into one, and make their life meaningful to themselves as well as helpful to others.