x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

UAE special needs theatre troupe to perform in Malaysia

The Rashid Stars Theatre Company will make its international debut as part of a cultural exchange.

Practice makes perfect: the Rashid Stars performers work on their routines at the Rashid Paediatric Therapy Centre in Al Barsha in Dubai before their visit to Kuala Lumpur. Pawan Singh / The National
Practice makes perfect: the Rashid Stars performers work on their routines at the Rashid Paediatric Therapy Centre in Al Barsha in Dubai before their visit to Kuala Lumpur. Pawan Singh / The National

DUBAI // A theatre group of children with special needs will make its international debut in Malaysia as part of a cultural exchange programme.

The Rashid Stars Theatre Company, with performers from the Rashid Paediatric Therapy Centre, will spend a week sharing its dance and performance skills with children from Taarana, a special needs school in Kuala Lumpur.

The group comprises eight, evenly split between female and male members aged 13 to 22. Six are hearing impaired and two were born with cognitive impairment.

“We are not hearing the music, but we see the music,” said Mohammed Younes, the group’s choreographer and senior coordinator for the school’s arts, movement and events department. “We try to complete each other. If you watch any of our shows, you will feel this.”

Although the group has been around as a theatre company for only a year, it has performed with superstars such as Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan during the Bollywood idols’ recent visits to Dubai.

“If you watch them, you will be amazed,” said Mr Younes, 31, an Egyptian who has worked at the school for nine years. “That is why Shah Rukh Khan performed with us. He couldn’t believe these children cannot hear the music but dance just as he did.”

The performers meet three times a week in a customised room. Special wooden flooring allows the children to feel the vibration of the music being pumped from the audio system, which is also connected to the floor.

“We train them also without this,” Mr Younes said. “We don’t want you only to watch our disability, we want you to see how we are professional. Just look at us like a professional team, a professional theatre company. Don’t look at us as special needs. We are not. We are professionals.”

On February 16, the group will depart for Malaysia on a trip sponsored by QNET, a direct-selling company whose headquarters are in Malaysia.

“QNET has always had a soft spot for children with special needs. We want to support them and help them nurture their natural talents and creativity,” said Khaled Diab, the company’s regional general manager. “This visit to Kuala Lumpur will provide them a platform to interact with their counterparts in Taarana … showcase a special UAE dance, learn and enjoy a different culture throughout a diversified programme with exciting activities and explorations.”

Mariam Othman, general manager of the Rashid centre, said the trip would help to develop the pupils’ life skills as well.

“It will have a positive effect on the children,” Mrs Othman said. “We noticed this is affecting the children very positively. You build up their confidence, they will mix with other people, they will learn many things from the outside, they will be away from their parents. So you try to train them to be independent and this is our aim at Rashid centre.”

rpennington@thenational.ae