“To dance is to surrender my body and soul to unknown possibilities. I hear, I smell, I feel, I live, I dance.”
Mana Hashimoto was born fully sighted in Japan and trained as a classical ballet dancer into her teen years, when her sight began to decline. She moved to New York City to continue studying dance, even though her sight had disappeared completely within one year after her move. Due to optic nerve atrophy in her eyes that went undiagnosed, she had lost her vision but not her dreams of continuing as a dancer. Mana was invited by a friend to take a dance lesson and she embraced the opportunity. Without her sight, they decided if she observed her friend's body movements thru touch, that she could learn the dance steps while listening to the dance instructor's verbal directions. Being blind helped Mana transform her dance into a new form of art, rather than ending her dance career.
Her experience with choreography and dancing led her into creating a unique workshop called Dance without Sight, exploring artistic dance with the remaining senses. The workshops are for blind, visually impaired and sighted people who want to learn expressive dancing by feeling the music and looking "inside of themselves" to express their emotions with movement.
“Let’s close our eyes, open our hearts, and experience a world of rich multisensory imagination.”
Mana has produced solo contemporary dance performances all over the world to people of all abilities. She has worked with a staff that interpreted all the dance movements verbally for blind audiences, and created pre and post show performance tours for her blind audience members to touch the production props and sets.
Mana uses a cane to feel her way onto the stage and uses carpet or tape to mark her dance space and direction. Just recently Mana was a guest speaker in June of 2019 produced by Dance NY, at the New York Performing Arts Public Library talking about dance, disability and inclusiveness. She has worked with Lighthouse International NYC, Visions NYC, Brooklyn Center for the Independence of the Disabled, Lighthouse Yokohama and was a Peace Ambassador for Vigil for International Peace which celebrates United Nations International Day of Peace in September every year. Mana has worked with other organizations as well.
"If you also share my passion for dance, if you also believe we can turn the loss of eyesight into a gain in new artistic vision for both dancers and the audience, then let's all close our eyes for a moment, open our hearts and join me in this world of rich multisensory experience. Together we can turn darkness into new light, turn dreams into reality and turn the needs of audiences with disabilities into a fountain of inspiration for the dance field."
MaxiAids specializes in products for the blind and visually impaired, low vision aids, blind accessories and low vision products to help those with sight impairment live every day to the fullest.