May 24, Gerald Nijenhuis of “Oogatelier Varsenare” of “VZW Licht en Liefde” to come and dance salsa with his people again. My joy was great when I saw many familiar faces again. I now see Pijel as my dance partner, hahaha, and I had also seen Dimitri a week before and taught salsa during the sports day for the blind and visually impaired in Bruges. I like the boys very much, especially because they can laugh at my jokes. Somehow Dimitri finds the jokes sometimes mega funny and that in itself is funny. So in short I was happy to see them again. Dieter, Barbie (alias Melissa), Maria and Marleen were also present again and what was so nice to see is that they still knew the notion of salsa. Because of the various workshops they followed on other locations, I was able to go a little further in detail in the matter this time.

About the room:

I was very surprised when I saw cord and tape tied all over the floor. When I spoke to Gerald about it, he told me that it was put in place to guide the sighted in the workshops they give for empathizing with the unsighted world. I know that there is a kind of branch for this at the non-profit organization under the name Xinix and curious that I am, I also went to look behind backstage where I saw various technical gadgets with a lot of glasses on a table.

In short, I returned to the room, and because the cords were already there I didn’t have to do any preparations, except to connect my phone to the soundsystem.

I was able to spread the dancers nicely across the room with a meter distance between them. Everyone eagerly started with his or her salsa steps, before the line, behind the line and in the center. Everyone was on the same track and had stored the information from previous classes in their brain.

About the dancing of blind people among themselves or in other words exclusive dancing

In Bruges and before, we danced already with a fixed system of one sighted person dancing with one blind person. Later that day, I visited the sports department of Ostend and as usual had an extensive talk and discussion with Wanja Surmont, our sports promoter about inclusion and exclusion.

At first sight you would think, and I admit that one sighted person dancing with a non sighted can provide a bit more context and make learning a little easier at first sight. Normally it should go a little smoother but of course I ranted about the approach that the non sighted are easier to train in classes with a group of sighted people than when they only dance with the non sighted. What?

Another red rag for me and of course I started to breathe more heavily at such a moment representing the bull of bulls in one of the most beautiful French chansons ever by Francis Cabrel

I can guarantee you that I could see that dancing in a group as unsighted is not difficult but extremely difficult! The pace is faster, you have to go with the flow, there is no room for many questions and not everything is explained in 100% detail and it has to progress with all faces towards the mirror. So I totally disagree with the idea that inclusion is easier than exclusion. I actually get nervous from this statement and I authorize myself to take a clear position in this matter simply because it is about professional knowledge. In addition, it remains quite a task for sighted dancers to step into this vibe and to accept this. Something that is not be talked or written about too often, but simply is the daily truth. The people who know me and who are not sighted or visually impaired do not blame me for this truth, but rather agree and so I speak out these words even louder in this statement.

But to make a long story short I absolutely believe in the convenience of exclusive lessons. As a trainer you are only concerned with your target group and you can follow their rhythm and not the other way around. I am therefore very grateful for the workshops. I am therefore extremely grateful to the group of “Oogatelier” Varsenare and Ostend for their trust, their goodwill, their attention to what their people like to do and want and their open attitude to promote the general motor development of the participants.

Gerald had booked me for an hour and a half, but after an hour it became clear that everyone was getting too tired. So I came up with something new but discovered something exceptional. I got all participants to sit on a chair and went to work like a real teacher.

I first tried very carefully with one question:

1. How many beats is Salsa danced to?

I tagged Dieter and less than a second later he shouted: 8 counts!

I dared to go further and asked Barbie (Melissa)

2. Which foot do you dance with 1, 2, 3

Promptly she shouted: with the right foot!

The following questions arose:

3. What counts are we not dancing?

4. What counts does the leader dance on his right?

5. When you have 8 counts on how many counts do you move your feet?

6. …

It went on and on and in no time you felt the energy bubbling up. The eyes turned, went back and forth and the brains did their job and I was in heaven because I was amazed at the speed and accuracy with which the memory assisted them.

What a tool!

And what a conclusion as a trainer.

For the first time I was able to personally experience how inventive and concentrated blind people use their brains to place, name, arrange, shift, perceive, understand and so on and so forth.

I had noticed it a few times before with my regular dancers, but never on such a large scale and with such speed.

Absent-minded professor:

I’ve already been told: Michèle, you’re again an absent-minded professor. And that’s right! Sometimes there is so much in my head that, even though I know the matter inside out, I sometimes have a blackout or am literally scattered about a detail, an adjustment, a notion. And if I then have to teach to the sighted, I sometimes have to squeeze my entire brain to explain things as best as possible. Some times, I suffer from aphasia. I know it doesn’t seem like it, but it’s the truth. The signals are sometimes so overwhelming and the actions run so fast at the same time that it takes everything to express me as quickly as possible. When I see with what speed the unsighted organize the information, I am in utter admiration.

And that is what the workshop in Varsenare has taught me and I dare to send it out into the world as a statement.

As a trainer you have to work more with the brain, the brain of the sightless.

The base of their abilities lies there. As a trainer, it is therefore the task to use this tool, to apply it and to overuse it yourself, to promote motor skills.

I had a long talk last year with Professor Greet Cardon about motor development in toddlers and preschoolers. The University of Ghent is fully committed to motor research into young children.

I think that also for blind children and youth, motor development should be stimulated from the brain and from a repetitive framework in which recognition can then become the most important information processor in the general motor development of the young athlete.

In other words, I dare to say that the brain should be used in its entirety for sports practice and not the other way around.

First memorise and then execute and don’t try to execute first and then memorise!

Something to get to work with.