LET'S
DANCE

Was the name of a program conducted by "The Basement" center in December 1991. Besides the members of the theater, the children of the boarding school #31 participated in it - children suffering from the children's palsy (CP). In total during one week they rehearsed and staged a performance with a very simple plot: a love story between a healthy and a well-off boy and the girl from this very boarding school, who had a dream of her life to dance a waltz, but just could not do it and almost gave up.
It was for the first time in Russia that the people who are treated by the society as handicapped, got an opportunity to convey their problems by the most understandable language - the language of theater - about their problems and feelings, about the loneliness of living in a secluded world of a boarding school and about the hardships of trying to merge into the "normal" life. In turn, the "healthy" ones realized how offending and humiliating the condescending pity can be.
During this week the relationships between the participants also changed. From mutual mistrust and caution to understanding and friendship. The week which was dedicated to the program was finally over, but the children stayed together.
Since that time there were a number of similar programs -
"Can't live without the rainbow" (1995, Voronezh, a program with the children suffering from cystic fibrosis) and
"I dream" (1998, in cooperation with the boarding school #20 which hosts and provides education for children with severe forms of CP, almost none of them can walk by themselves).
"The Basement" remains an integrated theater. And it has been more than ten years now that the theater members do not care which diagnosis is stated in someone's health report, what is important is what kind of person you are.

 

"however naive, the play is presented in a very straightforward and tough way, like children only can. An adult will hide behind a false smile and no one will notice his/her indifference. When in one of the episodes a "bad" boy walks across the stage making fun of the way disabled people walk, you want to hide your face out of shame. You wish you could scream out: "How can it be like this?!". But at the same moment you realize: "How is it happening in real life?". So if they say: "I'd be happy to take a walk with you down the street" - you have no doubts about it - they will. Because just a few minutes ago they were clinging to each other's necks out of joy…"
"Stolitsa" magazine

In the theater's everyday life each person does what he/she can. If you can't breath dusty air - you can wash dishes, if you choose to sit behind the stagelights console - no one will make excuses that your fingers do not move very well because of your disease. Everyone is treated in here equally, and the people are loved not because of something but simply loved. And if someone says to a person in a wheelchair: "c'mon, let's run" - he/she does not feel offended.
In posters or in the performance programs of the theater you will not read that handicaps participate in the play. The word "handicapped" is not welcome in the "Basement", it's meaning is not accepted. For instance, in computer terminology Invalid (exact transliteration of the Russian word for handicapped), means non-functional, out of order. These people are not broken toys, they are no different from others except the fact that they have sight problems or spine or breath difficulties. Who of us has NO problems, who of us is absolutely perfectly healthy?
The "basementniks" would rather use the word "invalid" for someone without compassion, who divides people by their medical diagnosis, by the shape of the eyes and by the color of skin…

"yes, sometimes during the play - and it's quite short, only 40 minutes long - the tears were rolling from the eyes. Everyone's eyes. The disabled children's parents, their friends and their guests - kids from the boarding school. But those tears were not tears of pity. It was the joy for those who managed to overcome their sickness, who stepped out to the stage and became part of the "other world". Those whose living became easier…"
"Evening Moscow" newspaper

 

The "Basement" play showed that we can still shed a tear and not feel ashamed of it. Our children can still be compassionate and help one another… There is still a chance for all of us people!"
"Moscow News" newspaper