Unique to the country, the National Institute for the Blind deals with children and young people with serious visual impairments. Among other things, they provide school, housing, and rehabilitation services to those in need, including activities aimed at preserving physical condition.This is how the hip-hop class came to be, an account of which can be read below. Written by Edina Implom.
I’m going to tell you why it’s good to do good, why it’s good to do work you’re not getting paid for, and how one goes about teaching blind and visually impaired people to dance :)
Yes, I know: if you aren’t getting paid, it’s community service. However, it’s all up to your state of mind. For a bit more clarity, it’s important to tell a few things about myself.
My vision problems
I started out as an ordinary baby, but (a few months) later it turned out that my eyes weren’t completely healthy. I looked at the sun a lot and I didn’t always look in the direction of people talking to me. I’ve been blessed with a number of visual impairments: nystagmus, photophobia, dazzling, blurred vision. I also have color vision deficiency, and I have 20/80 vision. Nystagmus means that my eyes move repeatedly. It’s not too prominent anymore, only if I look to the side or upwards for a long time. Photophobia (light sensitivity) is experienced by most at least in summer, or when skiing, but you just put on your sunglasses and enjoy the sunshine :). For me this is different in that I need sunglasses not only in bright light, but also at sunrise and dusk, because I’m so blinded by the light that I can barely see anything. Color blindness and color vision deficiency are very different. Color blind people see in black and white. But since I have color vision deficiency, I see the same colors as you do, but I cannot tell what color it is. There’s no connection between my eye and the part of my memory that could learn it. I also have blurred vision. I wasn’t even aware of this before finally getting a proper pair of glasses a few years ago :)
Writing all this down was important to get to know me and understand why I didn’t go to an average school, but a special one. There are two institutes in the country which support the visually impaired, and there’s the National Institute for the Blind which helps seriously ill, blind children. This is a kindergarten, primary school, and secondary school all in one. The story began here!
At the Institute for the Blind we got to know András Seres and the Fórumház Association. As part of a program at the Institute, they taught blind and visually impaired people to dance, but it was also possible to dance with people with healthy eyesight. After two hip-hop lessons at the Institute for the Blind, me and my friend got the opportunity to visit their regular training sessions. We were very happy about it, and we went there for six year together. After that, I was given the opportunity to teach blind people myself, which was awesome!
I had a partner, Nikolett Őry, together with whom we conducted the trainings. We’ve known each other from before, she was my teammate when I was doing hip-hop. We were good friends and we could cooperate well, which was important for such a big task.
During such training, people need completely different treatment than during a program for people who can see. I don’t have a degree in special education, I don’t know how to teach or deal with blind people. But since I cannot see properly myself, I had/have much experience with this. When I first entered the room, I didn’t feel like an outsider. Obviously, you might think, but it’s not as straightforward as that.
Some of the people there were my roommates in elementary school, but some of them were 5-6 years older than me. I was very proud of them for being there to move, and I was proud of myself for being asked to do this, and to have the chance to be with them.
After arriving, we unpacked our stuff (we brought the stereo with us), then waited for the others to arrive. In the meantime we discussed the choreography with Niki, although sometimes we met somewhere in the city to discuss it before training.
As the others arrived, we asked them how they were and chatted a bit with them, since not only did we care for the body, but for the soul as well. If you don’t feel well, your performance will suffer. If someone was in a bad mood, we tried to cheer them up a bit. Then we started to warm up.
The mood in the room was very good, due to all the positive people coming together.
We arranged them in two rows, at least at double arm’s length from each other, so that they don’t hit each other by accident. We warmed up together with them, as some of them could see light or even more, so it was better if they could see our movements. We always told them what to do, so even those who couldn’t see at all could follow.
First we had to show them what to do manually. That is, we took their hands or feet and moved, bent, stretched them into the desired positions. Spinning around was the hardest, or one of the hardest, because it was very hard for them to understand how much turning makes full 360 degrees, and it was hard to tell them when they were standing backwards. In this case we turned them to the correct direction. After warm-up, it was time for the choreography.
Since they couldn’t rely on visuals, they did everything from memory, or routine, if you like. Therefore it was hard to teach them something that’s easy for us. It took a lot of practice, and a lot of repetition. There were sessions when they only managed to learn a single eighth (it was obviously up to the difficulty, too), but sometimes it was four! I’m very proud of them to this very day, as most of them were withdrawn and shy in the beginning. It was good to see them open up and get out of their shell.
In front of the audience
After learning the choreography, we could take them to public performances, and even competitions! It was awesome to see the fruit of our labor, to see them perform, enjoy it, and smile. It was wonderful!
They even won a gold medal! :) They were really astute and persistent. It was hard for them to learn a new way of moving because they were not used to anything like that. They managed to overcome the difficulties, and they formed a great team where everyone was equal, and they brought out the best in themselves.
Unfortunately I’m not doing it anymore, as I’ve moved far away. But I miss the classes very much, I loved them!
I honestly think that I, too, managed to bring out the best in myself, since it was during this time when I realized several things about myself as well. Among others, I realized that I’d like to take a leading role in my job, and that there are so many things that are far more valuable than money! There are many who think that is all talk because I grew up among blind and visually impaired people.
I recommend volunteering for everyone! Try it, and it will open up new worlds.
If you see a blind person on the street, do ask them if you can help them. They’ll tell you, no need to drag them around or something :)
Source of featured image: flickr.com
Translated by Ádám Hittaller