Hinano Toda, our second international student, and first from the other side of the globe, who volunteered with us this season, is living proof that dance is a universal language. Hinano is from Japan and came to Canada to further her language studies. Although Hinano could speak only a few words in English when she first joined The Dance Ability Movement, it didn’t prevent her from doing a fantastic job as a volunteer.

“Through dance, Hinano was able to express herself, connect with our dancers and be a part of our community”, says Mallory Ryan, The Dance Ability Movement Director of Quality & Development. “We were also amazed to see her enthusiasm and resilience in learning our culture and language, and sharing her passion for dance with our community”.

We asked Hinano to share with us her experience in Canada and her time with The Dance Ability Movement. We hope you enjoy!

Could you share with us a little bit of your background and what brought you to study in Canada?

I am from Japan and I have been in Canada for the past several months. I came to Canada to further my University studies and my English supported by “TOBITATE JAPAN” program led by MEXT (Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology). I have loved musical theatre and dance since I was a kid. In Toronto, I’m volunteering with a few dance and theatre programs for people with special needs.

Have you noticed any differences between Canada and Japan?

In my opinion, the biggest difference between the two countries is the cultural diversity. It is often said that Toronto is a multicultural city but I was surprised to see how various cultures are naturally accepted and integrated. In Japan, people are very interested in other cultures and try to appreciate them. But it is sometimes difficult because Japan is a small island country which is surrounded by the ocean.

What was the main reason that motivated you to volunteer with the dance ability movement?

My brother has intellectual disabilities. He loves visual arts and it always makes his day. I believe that all kinds of arts are equally enjoyable but for me, it is especially the performing arts that I love the most. I believe we all have the ability to dance. This was the main reason that motivated me to volunteer with The Dance Ability Movement.

What was the most rewarding thing in volunteering with us?

Seeing our dancers having fun makes me feel so happy and reminds me that I really love to dance. Also, the DAM community welcomed me with open arms even though I was a total stranger who could not even speak English in the first months. For someone who came from far and knew nobody here, it was wonderful to have such a friendly and inclusive environment. It has been a great pleasure to work with The Dance Ability Movement.

And most challenging?

The language was the most challenging for me. In the first dance class, I could not even say “put your props back into the bin” but I listened to what other volunteers had to say and I learned a lot from them. It was also very helpful that the DAM team tried to communicate with me and helped me.

What advice do you have for other people considering a volunteer opportunity with us?

I want to strongly recommend everyone to volunteer with The Dance Ability Movement. It’s a very friendly environment which also offers you opportunities to grow. Expect to learn lots! The advice that I would give is to keep an open mind!

Due to COVID-19, Hinano had to return to Japan and postpone her plans of moving to UK to volunteer with Unlimited Disability Art Organization. Looking at the bright side of it, since we are all dancing at home, Hinano surprised us by joining in our virtual classes Sunday mornings in Toronto, even though she was dancing late into the night in Japan.

Thank you, Hinano, for your contributions and for sharing your passion for dance and inclusion with us! We wish you all the best and hope you can continue joining us in our virtual classes!