Inspired by The Dance Complex’s first ground-level studio space, The Accessible Dance Initiative is joining the landscape of programs, such as Dance for PD and adaptive dance, being offered to make dance an available activity and means of expression for people with various experiences. The Dance Complex and Mass General Hospital have partnered to make these classes free for all participants and open to those facing many different challenges such as having Parkinson’s Disease or using a wheelchair.
A few of our students have shared their ways of finding out about the program and a number of them involve great efforts on the part of open-minded and encouraging neurologists, such as Doctor Diler Acar at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Others found out about the classes by word of mouth, tagging along with a friend or neighbor, seeking out a community or bringing their own community with them. Bob and Gwen Lintin, who have lived in the Boston Area for most of their lives brought their daughter Heidi, who was visiting from California, with them to the first class they attended. Leaving the studio, Gwen shared with us that her favorite part of the class was the level of comfort she felt while dancing: “You know sometimes I need a chair to lean on, but when we were walking around, I felt like I could hold on to anyone and just lean on them.” Heidi shared her gratitude towards the teachers and The Dance Complex for being a great and welcoming space.
These kinds of conversations, usually happen at the end of each class during the built-in time for sharing stories and experiences, making sure that you get to know people that you hold on to. Sandra Corsetti and Yasmin Byron have both been a part of the first session of Accessible Dance Classes and have come back for more. “After doing it for the first time I started paying more attention to movements that I do around my house on my own, stretching and having fun” — Sandra shared with us.
It is precisely this attention to micro-movements and the great joy that can come from natural movements that interests Sarah Friedman, a dance, choreographer and filmmaker based in Brooklyn. Sarah has been working closely and collaborating with Rachel Balaban who has been spearheading Dance for Our Aging Population at Brown University and is a Dance for PD Coordinator for Connecticut and Rhode Island. Sarah and Rachel have been both working hard on raising awareness about the benefits of dance for people with movement challenges in a variety of circles. Medical Students have been co-teaching classes with Rachel and a symposium on Artist and Scientist collaboration has been held at Brown University last spring for the first time. This year Sarah is hoping to share her film explorations and Rachel is hopeful that symposium will help secure funding and support for the program. Rachel shared her enthusiasm about the classes being held at The Dance Complex and the beautiful facilities that make them possible.
Studio 7, a newly renovated ground-level space with views of Central Square and historic stained glass artwork opened its doors to a variety of students. Fatou Carol who has been teaching West African at The Dance Complex for many years and co-teaches the Accessible Dance Class shared that she has always hoped to see a handicap accessible dance studio open and accommodate a more diverse group of dancers. Last week we welcomed Cindy, Alejandra and Alison, a group of young women in wheel chairs who have contributed so much in terms of movement, joy and support.
The success of the program owes so much to Fatou Carol and Kara who take terms teaching the class and the non-judgmental welcoming environment they create. Students who have come back since last session speak highly of the friendships they’ve developed with each other and teachers as well. Yasmin shared that is was great to “return to class after the break and see two instructors again. We give each other hugs – that feels good, too!”.
This session of classes will wrap up by the end of the year, but as the community grows we will definitely see more next year. In the meantime, we are working on documenting the class and sharing the video with the larger community to raise awareness and start new conversations. If you know someone who might benefit from the Accessible Dance Classes or would like to learn more, do not hesitate to reach out to Kara Fili at [email protected] We are always inspired by and grateful to all of our students for their curiosity and open minds about the power and possibilities of dance.