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Dances that heal: Ukrainian teacher helps the blind to adapt to life

Dances that heal: Ukrainian teacher helps the blind to adapt to life
A Kyiv dance teacher invented an ingenious method to help blind people adapt to life. He teaches them ballroom dance. And his students already reap good fruits.

Volodymyr Batischev used to serve in the military. Ballroom dance was his favorite hobby. In his mid-50s, he received a second degree in it and made the hobby his work. Apart from ordinary dance classes, he has special ones – for the blind. There are four adults whom Volodymyr teaches for free. I attended a class with Serhiy who lost his sight because of diabetes.

I met Volodymyr and Serhiy near a metro station. Volodymyr was explaining to his student how to get to the new location of the Dance Center studio – its main trainers Yuriy and Yana Vasyutyak gave an opportunity to use their dance rooms for Volodymyr’s lessons. Despite the snow and intensive traffic, the men move quite fast. Later Serhiy explained: it is the dance lessons which helped him to feel more confident on the street – to hold his balance and to walk faster.

We got to the class where sports couples were training. Volodymyr takes a place for him and Serhiy and starts to warm up. Every movement has its own logic:

“When he ascends and collects his body center, his vestibular apparatus turns on and his calf muscles are toned. We try to divide his musculoskeletal system and top of the body,” explains Volodymyr.

He says that many blind people become also deaf after their forties:

“Deafness starts to develop if a person is in bad physical shape. One of my main tasks is to raise foot sensitivity in order to aid hearing, and to develop the feeling of movement on the foot.”

Another task for the trainer is to make the side muscles of his students work:

“Mostly the blind think of moving forward and backward. And their muscles which are responsible for moving to sides are bad developed. We do exercises to develop them. They are helpful for stabilization.”

The teacher says that ballroom dance contains the widest complex of skills which are related to balance and controlling your body:

“In fact, there are no other such trainings in the world. In general, dance therapy is aimed at emotions. At what a person feels while dancing. However, it does not explain how to move, the mechanics of movement. When a blind person learns how to control his body, he will be able to express his emotions in the right way.”

He admits that his function is not only to teach blind to dance, but also to be a psychologist and a physiotherapist simultaneously. For example, because of Serhiy’s disease, Volodymyr has to regulate his activity so his sugar level doesn’t rise.

The teacher and the student danced the Cha-Cha-Cha, Slow Waltz, and Jive for an hour and a half. Meanwhile, other couples trained in the class as well. Volodymyr says it’s important for his students to be with other people, as it is a good way to socialize. Losing sight and usual activities also leads to changes in social life. Sometimes, Serhiy dances with a partner, a woman who is also totally blind. He says that he dances more attentively with her to avoid hurting her:

“Volodymyr smooths up the moments when I do something wrong or do a wrong step. I am more relaxed with him. With her, I should concentrate all my attention.”

Serhiy had dreamt of learning to dance before he lost his sight but was too shy for it. Now he jokes that being blind helps him to not be afraid on the dancing floor. His main dancing goal is to perform the waltz and tango well.

But of course, the classes are not only about dancing. Serhiy says that a month of regular training sessions helped him to reach confidence in moving:

“My gait has changed. Before I overturned from side to side. Now I hold my body steady. I move more confident and relaxed. And this physical confidence also influences my emotional confidence. It even helps in communication.”

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