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DANCE DREAMS (article first published : 1999-05-29)

WithDance Dreams, their innovative programme directed by the equally-innovative Gerard Samuel, the Playhouse Company has proved once again that people with disabilities can dance. That is, if you interpret the word `dance’ as `movement’ and turn `movement’ into a concept of entertaining theatre.

With generous sponsorship from Game Discount Stores who also donated a number of wheelchairs to the project, Dance Dreams had one performance in the Playhouse Studio on May 28 featuring pupils from the Open Air School, Brookdale Secondary, AM Moolla Spes Nova and Kwathintwa School for the Deaf.

Gerard Samuel, manager of the Playhouse Company’s dance and drama of the arts, education and development department also had major support from choreographers and dance teachers Anusharani Govender, Indira Maharaj, Linda Wessels, Lungile Khoza, Patricia Devenish, Rani Perumal, Reshma Sukhdeo, Sangeetha Dheeprah, Shakila Sookoo, Shereen Michaels and Tremain Brislin.

From images of waves crashing on the shore and rippling along the sands created by a simple three-tiered row to that of a Boadicea figure in helmet and wheelchair coming to the rescue of a girl in a nightmare and committing frightening figures to flight, the show was full of delightful sequences. Among these was a chaotic pillow fight after which the pillows were cleverly left behind for a languid item sung to Jimmy Durante’s Pillow Walk, performers were well-disciplined and took an obviously pride and joy in their creativity.

This was not a performance of disabled people doing their best at dance. This was a exercise where disabled people took the medium of dance by the ears, shook it all about and proceeded to do it their way, proving that there are no boundaries or limitations where the spirit is strong and determined.

In fact, it was only the occasional off-beat movement that reminded one of the fact that the performers were unable to hear the music as heard by the audience. For many, a four-beat bar is just that – four counts. But the style can be so different. For instance, while Memory from Cats has the same rhythm as Freddie Mercury’s We Will Rock You, the rhythm style is very different. A deaf person cannot hear the beat, let alone appreciate its different nuances.

Those who were not able to walk or move in the normal manner used whatever parts of their bodies could respond. Wheelchairs became chariots, crutches became weapons or extra legs and one young man proved that legs don’t have to be the same length to march smartly! The finale was heartwarming with singer Bronwen Forbay singing one of the hits from Les Miserables, I Dreamed a Dream.

If you want to know more about Gerard Samuel’s work among the disabled, contact him on 369-9555.


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