Tuesday, September 07, 2010

You can't keep a dancer down

I noticed something a bit unusual at Haim Kaufman's Shorashim Labor Day Weekend Israeli Folk Dance fest when we went to a workshop on Sunday--the teacher for that workshop, Israeli choreographer Dani Dassa, was paying an extraordinary amount of attention to one particular student as he taught us his own dances. I couldn't figure out why--until I remembered that the student used to come to dance sessions with a dog, who has since died, and now comes with a blind-person's white cane.

Someone who was better acquainted with the blind dancer told my husband and me that she's an alumna of the Cejwin Camps, the sadly-no-longer-extant camps that, if I understand correctly, were designed to be experiential-education havens for Jewish culture. Our "informant" told us that Cejwin "graduated" many fine Israeli folkdancers, among them master Israeli-folk-dance teacher Danny Pollock, another of this weekend's workshop teachers, who's known the blind dancer since childhood--they attend Cejwin at the same time.

During Dani Dassa's Sunday workshop, either he or Danny Pollock was at the blind dancer's side at almost all times, talking her through the dances. Watching Dani Dassa walk her through a partner dance was certainly an interesting experience--though he was able to talk her through the footwork, he had to take her arms and physically move them to show her how to do the arm motions so that she would end up with her arms and hands in the right place and position. She was a quick learner.

I assume that the blind dancer was not always blind. Physically moving someone's arms to show what to do with them is one thing, but physically moving a standing person's feet without having the person fall over is another matter entirely! Judging by the fact that she responded immediately and correctly to footwork descriptions such as "Yemenite right, Yemenite left" and "Cherkassia" correctly, I think it's reasonable to assume that she learned those steps while she was still able to see them.

And here I thought I was having a tough time dancing with a ganglion cyst under the sole of my left foot, pains in the neck and shoulder from those compressed disks in my spine, and a fear of falling from having broken two wrists. After watching a blind person dance, I could only be grateful that I'm not in such bad shape after all--and, apparently, neither is she.


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