Sunday, 6 May 2012

Ballet with Disabilities (and Inclusion)...My Saturday Mornings

Recently, I got a ride home from an event with the woman who taught the adult ballet class in town a few years back. It was a very small class. There were three of us, including me, and then the instructor, Kate. We met for forty-five minutes on Saturday mornings to do relatively simple barre exercises: pliés, and tendus, and frappés, and battements, and several other exercises that I'd forgotten from the ballet training of my pre-high school years. It was all very relaxed, with lots of laughing. There were moments where my right arm would stretch in second position at  the barre and for a brief, wonderful moment, I'd actually feel like a just a dancer again, and not someone giving everyone else a first-hand look into ballet with disabilities.

I gave up the classes when a friend became very ill and I needed to have Saturdays open in case there was an opportunity to travel to the city to visit him. I missed the classes, though. There was a tendu combination that I could never get, that haunted me. Sometimes, when I'd wait for rides outside my apartment building, I'd put my hand up against the wall and practice it. I kept watching Kate's ballet school schedule to see if she was offering the class, but I never saw it.

So I was very happy to hear from her in the car that day that she actually does keep it running. She just doesn't advertise it. The same two women come, and she invited me back. I've just finished my second week.

Sarah and Ballet with Disabilities

I really liked that class, and still do, because I'm not a person with disabilities when I'm in it. Kate demonstrates what we're going to do, ("Because we're her Alzheimer's class," my classmate Helen jokes. "It's all brand new every week!") and then leaves it up to me to modify the exercise if I have to, in whatever way I have to. Which is awesome, because:

  • My left foot only points very minimally

  • If I'm concentrating on moving my left side, I have *no* turn-out. I'm lucky if I can get my left foot back into proper position if I lift it off the floor

  • Sometimes I forget to move my left arm

  • Sometimes I have to face the barre and grab it with both hands to do some exercises, or I'll fall over.

Nobody cares that when I do the exercises on my right side, my foot arches nicely and my arm is pretty and that when I do them on my left side...I'm just a mess.  Or that I can't do a rise, or a grande plié.  And they giggled with me when, after a particular difficult combination, I said,

"I was saying all the instructions in my head along with you, but apparently my foot decided that I could do that all I wanted, but it was just going to sit there in the air."

(That was was a *tad* worrying, by the felt like my foot was so confused by what was being asked of it, that it just wasn't even going to try to keep up, if that makes sense.)

But that's not the point. The point is that at the beginning of my stroke rehabilitation process, I never would have dreamed that I could feel so comfortable in a highly physical environment like a ballet class. And it's got nothing to do with my abilities - it's got to do with the attitudes of the people around me.

True inclusion hasn't got anything to do with ramps and elevators and accommodations of any sort - it has to do with attitudes.

Many of the "Blogging Against Disablism" posts make the same observation - click on the badge on my homepage to read the BADD 2012 posts.

And speaking of ballet with may not be classic ballet, but I dare you not to be amazed by these two young people...

P.S. If you're going to be staying in the New York City area any time soon and you're looking for a hotel with amazingly accessible rooms, check out the new "Best" on the "Accessibility Bests and Worsts" page...

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