On July 31st the day had come that 4 female youngsters and Tandem accompaniers went to Krzyżowa Poland, a village of 200 inhabitants and one international youth meeting centre. Our journey started at 6 o’clock in the morning from Athens Airport. For the youngsters living in the institution PIKPA Voulas it was a first-time experience. First time, they flew with an airplane, first time they went to Poland, first time they participated in a dance festival. After 12 hours of traveling with plane and bus we arrived in the beautiful terrain of Krzyżowa. After moving in our shared rooms, everybody started discovering the area by themselves. The youth center in Krzyżowa feels like a fairytale. The old estate of the Moltke family was transformed into the Krzyżowa Foundation for Mutual Understanding. The old buildings were restored and host now sleeping rooms, a gym, the canteen, a meeting place, a huge green area in the middle of the building and more. Walking through this part of history made us all feel something magical.
The next morning the festival started with some fun activities to get to know the 75 participants and organizational routines. Being inclusive not only meant that the terrain is accessible, but also that the instructions are understood by everybody. Therefore everything got translated into 8 languages. In the case of the 4th International inclusive dance festival the languages were Ukrainian, German, Czech, Polish, Estonian, Slovakian, Romanian and English.
Then it was time to dance. In the afternoon everybody got the chance to participate in the different courses and get a feeling of what to expect from the class. The program was full of dance, body exercises, theatrical games and musical explorations that made us feel part of a group regardless of the spoken language, the nationality, age and body type (physical or mental disabilities). Everyone could express themselves and offer what they could or wished for and this led to magical results, which were all shown on the last day of the festival in the final show.
The teachers were there to listen and adapt to any diversity of each member and so every bit of uniqueness led to the evolution of the final outcome of each course. The girls participated in traditional dances, aerial yoga, created sounds with their bodies, experimented with many musical instruments, sang, learned to control their breath and painted with new materials!
As an accompanier it was wonderful to see the girls developing whilst participating in the festival. With their own schedules and classes, they experienced some kind of independence, in which they followed their personal schedule. Having the right to decide when to shower or take a nap sounds absurd basically. But the prescribed schedule that comes with living in an institution discards that right.
The conclusion of this journey was like an endless party in which bodies and souls always find a way to communicate and collaborate when the right infrastructure is in place. And people learn to become an open embrace!