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| Saturday, 19 August 2017 |
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Opening Access to The Joys Of Dance  
Children with disabilities practice traditional and modern dance at Chantiqa Studio in Mataram, West Nusa Tenggara. Photo: Private doc
Wednesday, 02 August, 2017 | 15:00 WIB
Opening Access to The Joys Of Dance  

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Twice a week, Ni Ketut Priyani takes her 11-year-old son to the Sandi Muni Kumara Dance Studio, 30 minutes away from their home in Denpasar, Bali. Dance classes are usually held every Monday and Wednesday after school hours. 

Priyani admitted she was the one who encouraged her son, I Wayan Nur Cahya Saputra, to begin taking dance lessons three years ago. "At first he was hesitant, but I thought learning new skills would be good for his confidence," she explained. Her conviction proved to be true. After one month of dance classes, Nur, who has been deaf since birth, seemed more self-assured. 

"He was shy at the beginning, but now he gets excited every time we leave for the studio," said Priyani. "He has performed at many events." 

Nur's lack of hearing made it difficult for him to learn dancing, but his instructor would signal him whenever he had to switch to a new move. Now he can perform Balinese dances such as the Wiroyuda and Puspawresti. 

Priyani is proud that her son has been able to overcome these difficulties. "Even his friends who can hear look up to him now. As a parent I will always support him," she said.

Like Priyani, Wayan Suwisti always accompanies her 14-year-old daughter, Made Diva Erbiyanti, to the Sandi Muni Kumara Dance Studio twice a week. Diva, who is also deaf, was one of the first students who joined when the studio opened in February 2014. But, unlike Nur, it was the teenager who asked her parents if she could take dance lessons. "We said yes. She has always had an interest in dancing," said Suwisti. 

Diva practices at home throughout the week and rehearses even during school holidays. Her determination has taken her to many dance competitions. Last year, she won third place in a competition in Bandung, West Java. 

Suwisti beams with pride every time she watches her daughter perform. "I've watched her dance on TVRI (the national television broadcast). And we have visited Bandung, Jakarta and Yogyakarta because of her." 

THE Sandi Muni Kumara Dance Studio, founded by the couple Sri Aemi and Made Lila Arsana in 2014, was the first studio in Bali to accept deaf children. It was Aemi, who has a degree in Balinese dance and special education, who came up with the idea. 

"I majored in dancing for two years in college from 1988 to 1990. I then switched to special education because there was finally a bachelor's degree [in special education] offered at a private university," she said. 

Aemi told her father that she wanted to teach children with special needs. Her father was not keen on the idea, and Aemi knew that it would be more difficult than teaching other children. Still, she was adamant. There were already plenty of dance teachers in Bali, but very few teachers for the disabled.

After graduating from university, Aemi began teaching at an SLB-- school for children with disabilities--in Bali, not long after she met her husband who was then working at a social services agency and, like her, was working with children with special needs. Arsana had also studied dancing and had a degree in the arts. 

In 2013, Aemi encouraged her husband to open a dance studio so they could use their skills to help deaf children. At first Arsana refused. Teaching children who can hear was already difficult enough, he thought. In the end, Arsana relented and agreed to his wife's idea.

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