The lesson starts in Maria Fux‘s dance school and all students begin to move rhythmically. As they dance, they concentrate on their own body movements. Among the students in these dance classes, there are people who are physically and/ or mentally challenged; people with impaired vision, people with the Down syndrome, with polio or others who might be in the process of dealing with psychological anxiety. Fux, the teacher, watches them, prompting and evoking movement whenever she feels she needs to: “In my classes, I don’t demonstrate what I know or what I know not. I just focus on each student individually and my efforts lie in facilitating them to evolve. As far as I am concerned, there is no such thing as health or sickness. Overtime, everyone is capable of doing something with their body, as long as they are open, willing and determined” she says. She also claims not to actually “teach” anything but she only tries to be a bridge of communication through her experience, passing this experience on to her students, who accept her unconditionally.
The Argentinian prima ballerina, choreographer and dance therapist who worked for the Colon Opera House in Buenos Aires, Argentina, for two decades in 1940 and 1950, has devoted a big part of her life to dance therapy since 1960. Where did she get the inspiration to get involved with people in need? It was her own mother’s difficulty to move and walk. She had a limp, having had an infection due to which she had to have her kneecap removed. That was why this great artist started to focus on human beings limits. Fux watched her mother move around and do the housework and from her she got the “yes you can do it” attitude , no matter what difficulties you may encounter. Her devotion and persistence have made her what she is. Not only she is a gifted artist but she is also an innovator of a new form of dance therapy. One of the many things that makes her “method” unique is that she conducts integrated classes, where the main characteristic relies in the plurality of the senses involved. Furthermore, she acts as facilitator rather than teacher. She has built this dance therapy model in Argentina but she has also worked in Europe, particularly in Italy. She has trained physiotherapists, doctors, dancers, psychologists as well as speech therapists in using her method in their own work, while she has even written books about dance therapy.
Her above – mentioned “yes, you can do it” attitude empowers and inspires every person who wants to dance, improve and evolve his physical or emotional condition.
She characteristically tells her students: “Don’t be afraid. If you can’t do this, do something else. If I can’t do one thing, I can do the other. I am the other“. This is particularly evident by watching a video of a dance performance presented by a group of dancers, where the majority them is affected by the Down syndrome. They function as a synchronised group with a collective outcome that is definitely worth watching.
Born in 1922, today aged 93, she still teaches dance therapy in her dance school in Buenos Aires. Her life and work has recently inspired the director, Ivan Gergolet, who went on to make the documentary “Dancing with Maria” that was presented at the Venice Film Festival in 2014 and received an award.
She has received many awards including the UNESCO diploma, acknowledgements by the UN as well as the National Endowment for the Arts Award, amongst others.
Fux sparkles with her positive attitude which goes way beyond her dance classes; it permeates other life domains: ” When I wake up in the morning, I think, what a gorgeous day awaits me! Today is my day” .