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All Bodies Dance gets residents moving in Sunset community

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VANCOUVER, B.C.; OCTOBER 17, 2016—Naomi Brand, Kendra Milne, Harmanie Taylor, Yolanda Weeks, Cherylann Buckman and Rianne Svelnis engage in creative dance at a weekly All Bodies Dance class at Sunset Community Centre on Sunday, Oct. 16, 2016. (Emelie Peacock/The Voice)
From Left: Naomi Brand, Kendra Milne, Harmanie Taylor, Yolanda Weeks, Cherylann Buckman and Rianne Svelnis engage in creative dance at a weekly All Bodies Dance class at Sunset Community Centre. Photo by Emelie Peacock. 

Reported by Emelie Peacock  

People of all abilities gather and express their bodies freely in All Bodies Dance at the Sunset Community Centre.

The class is South Vancouver’s first inclusive dance class which welcomes participants from all backgrounds, ages, and abilities. Naomi Brand, co-founder and facilitator of the class, started the inclusive dance theatre in 2014 when she noticed Vancouver was a very accessible city, yet few opportunities existed for people with different abilities to attend a consistent dance practice. She aims to change people’s relationship with their bodies.

Naomi Brand Mugshot
Naomi Brand, co-founder and facilitator of All Bodies Dance. Submitted Photo.

“What I’ve seen and what people have told me is that it’s empowering, to be in your body in a way that is expressive and creative rather than just functional. Particularly for persons with disabilities,” said Brand.

Interpretive dance brings residents together 

Brand sees a potential for dance to promote understanding between neighbours who may face different daily realities.

“What we’re doing is potentially creating community,” said Brand. “We are creating spaces that are welcoming and ways for people to change how they think about who is actually in their neighbourhood.”

Harmanie Taylor, assistant facilitator at All Bodies Dance, commutes from Port Coquitlam in her wheelchair to attend classes.

“I was fairly new to the wheelchair and I kind of felt like my life was over; in that moment I found life again,” said Taylor. “I found freedom in movement that I never really had before, so I was hooked.”

Unique dance program welcomes those with disabilities 

Olga Podshivalova, a Langara alumna, brought All Bodies Dance to the attention of the community centre when she was an intern there.

“I noticed that the Sunset Community Centre back then didn’t have any programs that would be suitable for people with disabilities. I hadn’t seen even a single person in a wheelchair at that community centre,” said Podshivalova.

Joe Wong, a recreation programmers of the centre, said about a dozen people attend dance classes. Half of the participants are from the Sunset area.

All Bodies Dance classes are held Sundays from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the centre, and they are free and open to the public.

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