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Mаry Mamyan

Anoush Remains Positive Despite Disability: Dreams of Performing on the World Stage

35 year-old Anoush Smbatyan hasn’t been able to walk from the age of four. To increase her mobility, Anoush’s father crafted a three wheel bicycle for her. She’s been getting around in it for years.

As readers can see from the photo above, the bike has no pedals. Anoush basically pushes herself and says that it’s more comfortable for her this way.

While this mode of mobility is now second nature to Anoush, passersby stop and stare, amazed at the bike and its rider.

While Anoush has a wheelchair at home, she rarely uses it, saying that it’s not convenient. She lives on the outskirts of Armavir with her mother.  Her father died a few years ago.The streets aren’t in the best of shape. It’s hard for her to leave the house on her own using the wheelchair.

On the rare occasions when she does leave the house it’s to visit her two married sisters.

There’s a garden full of trees next to the house. They keep chickens there. Anoush says she keeps busy doing the household chores while her mother is out working in the garden.

Anoush’s mother Arevhat says they took Anoush to the hospital when she was four to get surgery to straighten out her foot. She says the doctor made an error and the girl wound up unable to walk.

Anoush cannot remember a time when she did walk. Her fondest memories are from her school age years. But Anoush never attended school. She received private lessons at home. Today, Anoush has the equivalent of an eighth grade diploma.

Anoush doesn’t have many friends, mainly family members. She regards 17 year-old Zhena Davtyan, daughter of her eldest sister, as her dearest friend. Anoush can confide her most personal drams and secrets to Zhena.

Auntie Anoush cannot refuse people help. She’ll do whatever she can to assist them,” Zhena says. “She very secretive. No matter how sad she is, she’ll never show it. She doesn’t like to talk about that issue and make her concerns known.”

I ask Anoush, who has never been in a club or taken courses out of fear she’ll do poorly, if she makes handicrafts. Before she can answer, her mother chimes in that Anoush sews many garments each year for the family. Afterwards, Anoush confesses that she’d really like to become a hairdresser or manicurist.

“I would like to do something, but it never works out,” Anoush says with a shrug.

Her fondest memory is of the time she participated in the “Ne Me QuittePas” dance performance which premiered on October 2014.The performance was a collaborative effort of the Yerevan National Aesthetics Center’s Little Theater and the UK Candoco Dance Company. Dancers with and without disabilities participated in the 50 minute performance.

During the show, Anoush entered the stage on her bicycle and performed a series of hand gestures.

“It was my first time on stage before so many people. At first it was a bit nerve-racking. I changed during the dance. I met loads of people.”

Anoush’s eyes light up when she talks about dance. She’s now focused on rehearsals. Anoush has been asked to perform at a second show and she must travel from Armavir to Yerevan for rehearsals. It’s a chance for her to get out of the house, learn new movements, and meet new people. She doesn’t have internet access or a computer at home, so these contacts are very important.

Anoush isn’t a whiner. So it was her mother who told me that Anoush has a severe allergy that has broken out as a deep rash on her hands and legs. Anoush is getting treatment to minimize the pain and itch, but doctors say they are baffled as to the cause.

A portion of Anoush’s 20,000 AMD (US$42) monthly pension and the 30,000 her mother receives goes to buy medicine and cover examinations. The family also receives a small stipend, but a part of that is used to cover taxi fares to and from Yerevan for the dance rehearsals.

Anoush tells me that Vahan Badalyan, the Director of the National Aesthetics Center’s Little Theater and the brainchild behind the Ne Me Quitte Pas performance, often talks to her about his experiences in Europe where people with disabilities are given the opportunity to participate in various projects.

Anoush dreams that one day she too will travel abroad and see those things for herself.

For now, Anoush hopes to develop her dancing abilities via such performances and to achieve success.

She hopes that such feats will one day land her on stages around the world.

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