Dancing is about the soul. Inclusive dancing is all about inclusion in dancing for those who are differently abled. When we dance, we are in the moment. We connect to the world around us. We are absolutely free, and We are all the same. Ancy Alexander tells us about her journey into the world of Inclusive Dancing in her own words.
I was a little over five years old when diagnosed as being born with Cerebral Palsy, and dance was prescribed by the doctor as a form of physiotherapy.
My mother enrolled me in Bharatanatyam. I was incredibly lucky that it was under the legendary Late. Guru S Natarajan. A visionary who offered unbiased dance education to his student with a physical disability way before inclusion was a term or fashionable.
The problem was that the same unbiased treatment was not available at school. I realized I was different. Different was uncool when you looked and walked like an ugly unbalanced duckling – one very unlikely to turn into a swan.
In my 20s I was struck by Kathak while watching a performance by Guru Pali Chandra. Once again, I was fortunate to learn from a teacher who chose to boldly work with my strengths instead of focusing on my disability.
A few years passed learning and performing Kathak before I realized that dance is my passion. Some instructors and well-wishers along the way expressed I was wasting time trying to do something I was not born to do. Around this time, I was also experiencing an increased sensitivity toward the way People of Determination were presented on stage in the name of opportunity.
I had to discontinue dance for a few years. Not training in dance, yoga, and Pilates was emotionally and physically regressive for me. I had the opportunity to perform a few times during this period, but I looked and felt unfit to dance.
A dear friend and mentor, Dr. Vonita Singh, started conducting movement classes for people with Parkinson’s Disease. She had extensive training in Kathak and Yoga and went to the US to train in dance for PD. I followed Dr. Singh’s work closely and volunteered when I could.
I developed an interest in inclusive dance and dance therapy and finally returned to dance by resurrecting my training in Bharatanatyam under Puja Unni. Fueled by encouragement from friends, I pledged my soul to make the required money to head to the US to train in choreographing and teaching inclusive dance.
The artistic director conducting the training was an acclaimed wheel-chair-bound dancer and choreographer. The dance company employed dancers who were amputees, those in wheelchairs, and mainstream artists. The workshop attendees included other people with Cerebral Palsy, spinal cord injuries, visual impairment, Autism, Dyslexia, and dancers on walkers and different mobility vehicles.
Here, no dancer or body was more or less abled than the other. If an instruction or session was not working, people shared openly, and the feedback was appreciated and incorporated by the trainers.
I was like a sponge absorbing how to creatively interact with artists with and without disabilities and disorders. The polar opposite of a creative movement practitioner workshop I attended in the sub-continent earlier, where I was the only participant with a physical disability out of almost 200 attendees. Also, an eye-opener but in a different way and a separate story altogether.
It took me an entire year post-training in the US to start conducting inclusive dance workshops here in Dubai. It came to a quick halt during the pandemic; however, during the lockdown period, dance theory intensive and creative exploration training programs offered in person around the world opened up online, and I got to attend some of these as well.
The dance workshops I conduct now feature a mix of movement and artistic wisdom from Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Yoga, and Contemporary dance with inclusive dance and creative exploration techniques. An East happily meets West approach, which I believe is the way forward to elevate dance and performing arts in the region to be more mindfully inclusive and hopefully turn its function down a few notches as a harpoon for sympathy and tears.
Born and raised in Dubai, Ancy Alexander is an entrepreneur and an independent PR professional and writer.
She has also dabbled in martial arts, Contemporary dance and trained in Yoga. She continues to train in Bharatanatyam. Through meaningful performances, dance, and creative exploration workshops, Ancy aims to promote a culture of mindful inclusion in the region.
Connect with her on firstname.lastname@example.org