If Emma Goldman were alive and experimenting with the virtual life, she may have said something like this. Why not dance through the pandemic? It’s good physical exercise, ignites oxytocin, and can bond you with a community.
Several accessible dance organizations have brought their talents online and thus expanded their reach nationally and internationally. One organization, Dance for All Bodies, co-founded by two recent UC-Berkeley grads — Yagmur Halezeroglu and Tess Hanson — feature a variety of professional dance instructors teaching accessible dance in a variety of styles from salsa to urban jazz and even chair tap.
Another group, Wheelchair Dancers Organization, pairs wheelers with walkers, and offers online classes in Island Fusion, Hip Hop, Latin Jazz, and Bollywood. One of their wheeler instructors, Ania Flatau, also offers dance classes on YouTube Live through her Facebook group, Cat Daddy’s n Krew Virtual Fitness with Ania.
Hello…in this podcast episode I’m sharing more of my pandemic experience with you. A couple of months ago I interviewed two people affiliated with BORP – Bay Area Outreach for Recreational Programs. BORP is an amazing organization that has really stepped it up during this bleak 2020 by providing online classes.
But BORP is not the only group helping us cope physically and emotionally. Today you’ll learn about two other nonprofit organizations — Dance for all Bodies and the Wheelchair Dancers Organization.
My first guests are Yagmur Halezeroglu and Tess Hanson. They are the co-founders and directors of Dance for All Bodies which you’ll hear them speak about as the acronym – D FAB.
I found out about this online dance program through dance friends I met at Rumba with Tina which I attend on Saturday mornings. D FAB is relatively new and features a variety of professional dance instructors teaching accessible dance in a variety of styles – salsa, Flamenco, Brazilian, Hip Hop, Contemporary Ballet, Urban Jazz, Diaspora, and Chair Tap.
It’s fun, it’s educational, and it’s a good work out.
I asked Yagmur and Tess how they met.
“…we went to UC Berkeley” – applied for same job – Cal Performances. Ushers, assistant managers. Met fall semester. Yagmur had a lime green backpack. Realized we both loved dance.
DfAB started a one-time dance class I organized at hospital. Amputee community. Amputee support groups. There is a gap the way we view dance. Taking action and making change support what you believe in. Tess and I put this idea together. Big Ideas competition. How can we scale this class? Worked with AXIS dance company in Oakland. I ask about her work with the blind. Tess talks about the beginning. One of her brothers is autistic; James is a part of my life.
Now that both Yagmur and Tess have graduated, I was curious to know how they envision the future of D FAB.
We’ll just take It wherever it goes. Tess naively thought we’d need a year to get it sorted out. So many ups and downs. It feels like a good, worthy work in progress. They met at BORP at Ed Roberts. Once the pandemic hit, our lives just changed. Let’s try online…how did you find dance instructors? Judith Smith helped find instructors. Stephanie, Janpi – through word of mouth. Dancers with disabilities. We want to connect these dancers with experience choreographing.
Looking for partners and sponsorships. Challenges we’re facing. Initial award. Crowdfunding campaign in late March. We don’t have a source of revenue beyond donations. We want to compensate the team. Bring our classes to new audiences. Spread beyond our little bubble. Partner with a hospital. adaptive dance in schools.
I asked Yagmur and Tess how they feel about the past year and all of their accomplishments.
Tess talks about how people feel after the class; we get lovely messages that provide the fire to keep going. Can I do this? I’m really proud of the partnership with Wheels of the world – an accessible travel organization. We had a lot of classes in rapid succession.
As you can tell these young women are quite inspiring. I had just assumed they were both dance majors but they weren’t. Yagmur studied cognitive science and hopes to pursue medical school and Tess studied environmental health and policy and is currently doing field work for a water conservation group.
You can learn more about their organization by checking the links on the Glass Half Full website.
My next guest is Ania Flatau. I met Ania earlier this year because she was one of the instructors in an Island Fusion dance class I took offered through the Wheelchair Dancers Organization – or WDO. WDO was founded in 2008 in San Diego, California by Beverly Weurding – a woman who has Limb Girdle Muscular Dystrophy. Ania’s been attending WDO classes for the last four years.
I first asked Ania about the organization.
The classes are for disabilities…we call them rollers and walkers as partners. All the classes are for all abilities, all levels. Teachers who roll, teachers who walk.
Tell me about your love of dance; what were you drawn to? My parents are from Poland. When I was in high school. I was an athlete. I thought I was a bad ass. I felt so uncomfortable; he was pulling my arm. At the end I was so uncomfortable that I wanted to figure out how to do it right. One summer I took a trip to Poland and my parents found a dance camp for wheelchair ballroom. These dancers…dancing for six hours/day; they were training for the world championship. They kicked my butt. I remember feeling challenged…that’s where my love for wheelchair ballroom started. I started to feel more and more comfortable with my body. I felt a oneness that I had never felt before. I was…a senior in high school. I got into those fields because of the wheelchair dance.
Ever since that dance camp I’ve been doing something dance related. It makes me feel like I am centered in a world. Being a person with a disability…disconnected from your body. I feel present and centered.
I teach a dance fitness program world of dance u jam. We partnered with world of dance – a massive network. The songs are urban, like hip hop. When covid hit I…how am I going to get my fitness on? I was toying with the idea of teaching virtually. I created a Facebook group. the name is cat daddy’s and krew virtual fitness with Ania. A hip hop dance move called a cat daddy looks like you’re rolling a wheelchair. I was trying to find a creative way to honor the culture where hip hop came from and have an ode to the dance…cat daddies are wheelchair users and krew is everyone else.
So there you go…I learned something about hip hop. You can find out more about Ania’s Cat Daddy and Krew on Facebook; I’ve got a link to her group in the podcast notes and her YouTube Live classes are free. Ania told me she likes the accessibility features like the captioning that are available on YouTube. If you have any questions about modifications for the dance moves, she’s more than welcome to meet with you – virtually – to suggest options.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode but more important, I hope you check out the dance classes available at Dance for All Bodies, Wheelchair Dancer’s Organization, and Ania’s World of Dance U Jam.