For her, lack of movement is a slow death, and the worst thing is to find yourself in a social vacuum due to circumstances. Alexandra Odoevskaya, who lost her leg in a car accident, has just found the strength to take up tango and return to the origins of her femininity.
“It’s been a long road of acceptance”
Muscovite Alexandra Odoevskaya was involved in a car accident eight years ago. That evening, 21-year-old Sasha was walking with friends at VDNKH, and when she was about to leave, one guy offered her a ride home. On the rain-slick road, the car skidded into a pole. The impact landed on the passenger side, where Alexandra was sitting.
To pull the girl out of the shattered metal, rescuers had to cut the car. Alexandra spent two weeks in an artificial coma in the intensive care unit. The realization that she had lost her leg did not come immediately – it affected the exit from the coma, when reality was confused with sleep and the girl did not understand what had happened.
I was lying alone in the intensive care unit and slowly began to realize where I was, what was happening. At one point, I even tried to stand up…
Then followed two months of rehabilitation in the hospital. The post-discharge period became even more difficult. “I was locked up at home without the ability to continue my usual life and was in a dependent state from my relatives. During this period, I went through all the possible options in my head, how to continue to live, what to try. It was a long way to accept the situation, to at least start moving, to get up, walk and start prosthetics,” recalls Sasha.
The girl was excited to go to the prosthetic workshop, to notice the stares of passers-by. “It was uncomfortable and awkward that people were looking at me. I was very afraid to meet friends near my house, former classmates. I knew people would ask, but I still couldn’t figure out what to say to it. Who am I now with what happened?» she adds.
I felt awkward, angular, and clumsy. I really wanted to be as free as possible in my body, feminine, plastic. Look at yourself in the mirror and be happy with what you see.
For the first few years, Alexandra walked with a cane. In addition to the prosthesis on her left leg, she has a spoke on her right leg – the result of two fractures sustained in an accident. Because of the injury, compensatory reactions began to occur in the body, when other muscles of the body tried to compensate for this load when stepping on the leg in pain. My back, shoulders, and various joints began to strain too much.
“Tango is her inner state”
After losing her leg, Alexandra began to feel that she was losing her femininity. Despite the fact that she had already started walking, working and leading an active lifestyle on her own, the girl felt different in her new body. “I was no longer limited by anything, but my body moved differently. I realized that I can and want to look more plastic, feminine. It was from these feelings that I came to dance, ” says Alexandra.
From the time of the accident to coming to the dance, it took about four years. Alexandra saw a post on Facebook about the recruitment of a dance group that could include both people with disabilities and healthy people who had not previously danced. “I thought this was the right time to come,” she says.
When I came to the class for the first time, I was a little scared and surprised that people with completely different types of disabilities work so hard and actively.
In the early years, Alexandra developed her dancing skills very slowly and carefully. But at the beginning of 2019, she made a huge breakthrough, starting to practice tango on the recommendation of her choreographer. So, she met with the teacher Boris Mandraburca, with whom he partnered. “We tried to dance with Boris, I really liked it. I felt that it was working, and I wanted to continue and see what would happen,” the girl recalls.
Alexandra’s choreographer in the inclusive project was Yevgeny Yelkin. “The goal of our inclusive project is to integrate a deeply physical, spiritual and inclusive component into each other. Not to go by patterns, not to do “like a dance”, but to do a dance based on the capabilities of a person, his real physical data. We search for each person’s own choreography, taking into account their psychophysical state. Sasha is in perfect condition, she is not an invalid in my eyes. Tango is her inner state. She is a girl who is looking for a Duo, looking for a partner, something feminine, ” Eugene emphasizes.
Dancing with the prosthesis is quite painful, and at first Sasha’s body was shackled, she was afraid to lean on her left leg or fall. Partner Boris came to the rescue and always offered options, choosing the movements that would be most comfortable for the partner.
When you dance, you should feel at least good, ideally-to have fun. It is very difficult to tell a body a lie. And everything that you care about, where you are clamped, will be absolutely felt by the partner. Yes, it is awkward, but everyone starts somehow. The feeling passed quickly enough.
Boris recalls that when he first saw Sasha, he felt a slight shock. “For me, it was extremely unusual that a girl with such a feature was interested and came to dance. I have been teaching for a very long time, but this is the first time I have encountered such a case. I began to wonder how this is possible in principle. It turned out that Sasha is very capable, musical, energetic and fun, so everything is easy for her,” Boris says.
In his opinion, Sasha did not have any stiffness, at first her dance was no different from that of any novice partner. “I tried to be a little more careful, a little more attentive to her in the dance. But if you compare with the average girl who comes to learn to dance, Sasha had even much more freedom and mobility than the others. That is why it is progressing so actively. Even if she says that she is in pain, that she feels discomfort, some kind of clamps, it does not appear outwardly,” Boris emphasizes.
Return to femininity
In September last year, the couple decided to seriously start performing and participate in major competitions. According to Sasha, it was a kind of challenge for her (“Why not try it?”), but the guys never wanted to win, it was important and pleasant for them to share their creativity with people. The first serious victory was the Argentine tango championship “Milonga of Moscow-2020”. The pair became Champions in the category of “Escenario” (stage tango).
When I dance, I feel free and able to let the audience experience the same feelings and emotions that I experience. This is the most valuable thing-to feel the return from the audience.
Thanks to the dance, Sasha returned to her femininity and regained her former confidence. “Femininity is primarily an inner sense of self. Everything external is just a manifestation. You can work as much as you want on your movements, on your speech, change your clothes, make-up, but if you don’t feel harmonious, calm, free, peaceful inside, you won’t be able to achieve this state visually,” she notes.
This is an understanding and feeling of yourself as a woman, a beautiful and gentle creature that you need to take care of.
“There was a moment when the feeling of femininity was gone,” recalls Alexandra. – When I didn’t like the way I moved.” I still thought of myself as a beautiful woman, but I wasn’t so sure of myself. I realized that I was missing something, that femininity is both smooth movements, and a beautiful gait, and a raised head, a straight back. This is also about confidence, including. In the tango, I found both femininity and confidence.”
Her partner Boris believes that Sasha always looked great, but in the dance she revealed herself as a person. “Many dancers have been practicing for years, but I don’t see what I want to see in dance. And Sasha-once – and here you are, please! ” – Boris notes admiringly.
Today, Sasha no longer hides the prosthesis and has made it an element of her style. On her Instagram page, she talks about her life and inspires other people who are in a difficult situation with her example.
It seemed very important to me that I could use my own example to tell about this or help people in similar situations. Our creativity and our performance is about the fact that there are no restrictions. If there is a desire, aspiration and dream, everything is possible.
“I am proud to have made this journey. And now, when faced with some difficulties, I find a way out for myself and remain myself. When I spent my days at home during the rehabilitation period, I felt very strongly that I was afraid to waste time. There is so much I want to do in this life that it is very scary not to realize it. I want not to miss a minute, and now I have some desire and strength to do this, to live this life as much as possible.”