Tripping and stepping on each other’s feet is a definite no-no for dancers but not in To Van Hoa’s class: all his students are blind.
“The most difficult thing for them when it comes to dancing is feeling the space,” the trainer at the Hanoi Dance Club for the Blind (Solar Club) says.
Three years ago he agreed to participate in a physical training project for the blind. Working for the first time with sight-impaired people, the 35-year-old was confused in the beginning. Then he imagined himself as a blind person to understand their difficulty and began to patiently train them.
He breaks a dance into many motions, making it easier for them to visualize, and corrects each movement and posture.
The project ended after three months, but the students in the group texted him to say they “wish to continue learning”.
He decided to set up free classes twice a week. The class is a 20-meter square room on the third floor of the blind association office in Dong Da District.
“Those who are not blind can undertake many activities for physical fitness, but blind people cannot,” he explains when asked why he set up the class.
After starting with around 10 students, he now has more than 30.
Dancers in Solar Club, Dec. 24, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Nga
Every Wednesday and Friday morning Pham Van Quang, who lost his sight and three fingers to a landmine accident when he was 14, travels 13 km from his home in Thanh Tri District to Hoa’s class. He is the hardest working student there, and never takes a day off.
He used to take a motorbike taxi and then a bus to reach the place, switched to ride-hailing services, and then, when the pandemic broke out, rented a motorbike taxi full-time, paying nearly VND200,000 ($8.76), to attend the class.
He says: “Every dance to me is like stepping into a dream. I used to think I would not be able to learn to dance, but now I know many kinds of dances”.
In the beginning he too found things awkward, unable to see the person dancing next to him, not knowing how to keep a distance, bumping into others, tripping on the uneven ground, and even falling.
It was also common for the trainees to bump into tables and chairs.
Then they struck upon the idea of using signals or touching their partners’ hips to let them know they are standing next to them.
If only two couples are dancing, the rest move out of their way.
Quang says: “Here I get to exercise and interact with people, so I’m much more energetic and healthy. We face the same situation, have the same goals, and so we feel free to share”.
Do Thuy Ha, head of Solar Club, said at first she had only planned to learn dancing as an exercise, with even her mother telling her she could not dance.
“Your body is too stiff,” she reportedly told her.
She is now surprised her daughter dances well.
Ha says: “We want to inspire people through the club’s activities. There are things we think we cannot do, but with effort and dedication we are bound to succeed”.
In April Solar Club organized a contest called PASS (Passion Assembly of Step and Sway), the first ever dance competition for blind people in Vietnam.
Hoa has learned perseverance and determination from his students. Many of them have patiently learned to dance and surprised the trainer.
To nurture his special students’ passion’, he taught online when Hanoi was under the Covid lockdown.
He adds: “For the first time in my life I taught dance online. Their positive energy helps me believe no difficulty is insurmountable”.
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