The Broken Wing - Nada Shawa
Like many little girls, the sight of Odette as the swan in Swan Lake completely took my breath away. I had not seen such beauty in movement. My late father had bought me a recording of a performance of Swan Lake by the Mariinsky Ballet Company. I was quite mesmerised. The love for dance has been with me as long as I remember. The idea of dancing myself had never entered my mind. This was always done by others. I completely accepted this fact and concentrated on progressing in my life. Growing up with a disability, my focus was to get educated and adapt to life with a disability. Independence was the aim. Sacrifices were made and I had to grow up away from family to achieve this. This was because there was a dangerous military occupation in my homeland.
All these combined had presented various degrees of challenges. During quite tough times, I would often daydream to escape. It was dance that always came back to me. In my mind I would create quite fantastical dance performances, and I would completely lose myself in these dreams. There were no images of myself in these dreams, as the idea of participating in dance was a faraway concept. The closest I came to dance then was a trick I learned. It was using my hands, specifically my fingers. By moving my index finger with the middle finger in a combination of different movements, I pretended that these were legs and feet moving, this kept me quite amused also!
Time moved on and I did achieve independence and an Honours degree from the University of Edinburgh. This along with personal challenges had left me quite exhausted and gave me a sense that I needed to find something that really touched my heart. Again, dance always came back to me, but it was quite unthinkable for me to participate in any form of dance. A sudden thought then came to me. I approached Edinburgh Dance Base just to make very ‘general’ enquiries. I was then invited to try out one of the classes. After explaining my needs the class I was signposted to was a class for people who had learning disabilities. I soon realised that this was not what I was looking for. I was then advised about another class that was also running, which was Five Rythms Dance. The teacher was extremely welcoming and explained what it involved. What struck me the most was the phrase ‘using your own energy.’ This concept really was appealing, as I knew my limitations compared to other dancers. Once I tried this class I knew this was what I needed. Now, and after nine years I am continuing to dance.
However it was not always easy. As a dancer, yes I now consider myself a dancer, the first few years of attending 5 Rhythms dance took a long time to become at ease with dancing in front of others. However, it became clearer to me that a big part of the philosophy is not to stare at others, especially without participation. So, with this comforting thought it became much easier. Everyone who participates in the dance was so absorbed in their own dance to notice other people’s dance. This helped me focus on discovering my own dance, and also later, working in partnerships. The challenge of coping with one’s emotions in dance also took a long time to manage. Again, the first few years were challenging. Especially that music had always moved me, and touches me so deeply. I found this and the combination of being suddenly free to dance, moving around effortlessly in my wheelchair, especially after dreaming of dance for so long and hearing the most outstanding pieces of music was at times difficult to keep my emotions under-control. However, my experience has helped me manage these challenges.
Performing a dance piece in front of an audience was something I had never ever imagined would happen. A student of dance choreography had noticed me and asked me to be in a choreographed piece. She was inspired by the freedom of my style of dance. The piece told the story of certain beings that were forced to conformity and my role was a spirit of freedom, who spreads freedom. This experience brought me enormous joy and more confidence in dance. This led to me organising a fundraising event for a humanitarian aid organisation. I was lucky to be able to gather great dancers and then set about choreographing a dance piece. I wanted a strong theme of ‘Ability’ in the piece. The dance told the story of an infirm depressed female woman with a disability who is controlled by others. Then in a moment of transformation she becomes a dancer and equal to the rest on stage. This was a proud moment personally, but also especially that we managed to raise a large amount of money for the aid organisation.
With complete honesty I can say that dance saved me throughout my life. Whether daydreaming of dance or performing dance. It has been there through the horrors of war, humanitarian disasters, personal loss and many of life’s challenges. Dancing has given me a true sense of equality. When I dance I do not feel that I have a disability. My heart senses every melody, and every beat like anybody else. They say swans paddle with one foot, and are mistaken for having a form of disability, and yet they manage to remain graceful in movement. What better creatures to learn from. I am grateful to dance and grateful that dance has opened its arms to me.
Being with what is present
“For many years I felt stuck in certain emotional states. Through the dance I have found that as long as I keep moving and being with whatever is present, it changes and becomes something else. I just need to keep moving.”
Horticultural instructor working in a therapeutic setting
Why do I dance? - Sarah Bonner-Morgan
I dance to meet the clown in me, the Lover, the Wise One, the Wild One and the many, many children - their quirks and jolts and cheekiness and extraordinary daring...and to hang out with my teenagers and their fabulous don't mess attitude...I dance myself into connection with myself then into connection with others...and I dance with others to reconnect to myself...I dance for JOY and I dance to discover the newest thing bubbling up from the depths of Me, the bits of me I haven't met yet. I dance for and with the Wholeness of me, of us all, our capacity and the 'all in One and One in all' ness.... I dance to move and I dance to give space for my very youngest precious dancer and her innocence and grace! I love her so much! I dance and there's that skin frisson as I drop into rhythm and flow with another (often when I dance with you Sarena!!)...I dance to empty and I dance to fill up again. I dance to feel myself dancing, the springiness of a leap, my thought running through my muscles...to test my balance...to explore... to run really, really fast...
I dance and I am Creation in the making...
I love dancing and dancing loves me right back!!
Sarah has danced her way through a good many lives this life and is currently teaching the Alexander Technique in Edinburgh weaving in influences from her Taoist martial arts studies and Sufi sound and breath training. Her most recent passion is Middle Eastern frame drumming.