Dancing When You’re Really Blind

blind dancer performing

A blind dancer featured in the film “We Also Dance”


Last week I wrote a post about dancing blind, but it really was about dancing temporarily blind.  This one is about dancers who are always blind.

I’ve written in the past about deaf dancers, dancers in wheel chairs, and dancers with other physical limitations.  I’ve never written about blind dancers but they’re out there!

Many years ago I taught self-defense classes at the Albany Orientation Center for the Blind.  The most striking thing I remember about my students was how varied they were in attitude.  One young woman had lost her sight less than a year before I met her and she was unstoppable.  She accepted her situation and with an upbeat attitude began learning as much as she could to improve the quality of her life.  Another who had been blind since birth had been coddled all of her life and was afraid of everything.

Any kind of dancing is possible if you can’t see.  It’s all about commitment and attitude.  As with sighted people, if you fall in love with it, you’ll practice enough to get good at it.

I’ve only taught dance to one blind person.  He was a large man married to a tiny woman with congestive heart disease.  She was frail, but could see.  He was strong, but couldn’t.  They were an unconventional couple who didn’t care if they looked odd to others, so were happy with my solution of having her learn the lead, and he the follow.

It is possible, however, for a blind leader to learn to lead.  It’s much easier if it’s a performance.  The floor can be mapped out and memorized.  The biggest challenge is sharing the floor with others.  Not everyone can handle this but some have managed to do it.

Mana Hashimoto’s dance troup, like the Axis Dance Company I featured in my post There’s More Than One Meaning for Chair Dancing!, is a mix of blind and sighted dancers.  In the documentary film We Also Dance, she explains how the dancers orient the floor without the use of sight.

Greg Kolichi, featured in the same film, dances Country Western.  He rises to the challenge of leading a partner dance while navigating the floor using his other senses.  If you are interested in this subject, check out the movie.  Here’s a taste!

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By LaurieAnn Lepoff
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