EU-funded inclusive children dance studio in Kharkiv

Contemporary choreography, excitement and joyful faces of children – this is how the first lesson in the Total Answer Dance’s new inclusive dance hall passed. Together with the choreographer, the participants of the eponymous dance group, students of the Regional Center for Vocational Education of Innovative Technologies in Construction and Industry, teach here.

The girls received a grant from UPSHIFT Ukraine (UNICEF programme supported by the European Union) to make their dream come true and now they have a hall where also people with disabilities can learn.

“We wanted to open a dance studio because children now have nothing to do, they are not interested in anything. We thought: if dancing is very interesting for us, and we love it very much, then it will be interesting for them too,” Uliana Solodaieva, a participant in the Total Answer Dance project, notes.

The first lesson was visited by seven people with special needs. Most of them suffer from autism. Before the beginning of the training, the children warmed up on their own and had little contact with the dancers. But during the master class, the project participants actively helped visitors to perform movements. And by the end of the lesson the children mastered a Hip Hop routine. This is the beginning of the dance that they will continue to learn during the next lessons.

19-year-old Victoriia Tsekalo is one of the dance hall visitors. The girl has autism, but this did not prevent her from simultaneously studying at the Kharkiv Higher College of Art and practicing dancing. According to Victoriia’s mother, Tetiana Tsekalo, her daughter goes to another dance studio.

“I have been dancing since childhood, from kindergarten. I also participated in festivals, performed in Odesa and Yalta. I sing and dance at home, recite poems,” says the visitor.

Vika says: the movements did not work out at first, but later I succeed. She is happy with the training and plans to come again.

Joint classes are a great way to include people with disabilities in the society, Karina Pyvovarova, another participant in the project, said.

“We want to get it across to people that we all have equal opportunities. And we want to warm everyone with love. It doesn’t matter if you have any health problems – we are one team, a close-knit group. We really want to convey to everyone that these children are the same as we are,” Karina says.

The team members had a dream of having their own dance hall for a long time, Halyna Stepnevska, Deputy Director of the Vocational Education Center, recalls.

“We wanted the guys who stay at home, do not study anywhere or who cannot study, to socialize, to come to this dance hall. Dancing is good, but the main task is communication. Perhaps not everyone who comes here will succeed in dancing, performing on stage, perhaps there will be a stage fright. But they can come and get some pleasure from training,” Halyna Stepnevska explains.

The girls completed a three-day training course at UPSHIFT Ukraine, during which they learned how to deal with people with special needs. After that, having received the grant, together with the mentor they set about implementing their idea.

“We received training on work with children with disabilities, on inclusion. It helped us. We know how to deal, for example, with deaf children, how to perceive their emotions and behavior. And we are not afraid,” Karina Pyvovarova says.

By Anna Miasnikova