Inclusive theatre as a way to reload life values

There are more than a billion disabled people in the world. Many of them face stigma, discrimination and exclusion. The actor of the Small Theatre in Yerevan Mher Zalinyan is a living proof that disability is not an obstacle to an active life and talks about how the stage became his lifetime.

I graduated with a degree in socio-cultural project management and worked in the non-governmental sector — Full Life agency, which dealt with the problems of disabled people. Once in the office, a colleague asked me: “Mher, do you want to dance?” I was surprised: “What do you mean? If you want, we can dance right here”. She laughed and told me about the programme of inclusive dance studios organized by Candoco Dance Company and the British Council in Armenia. I became interested and filled out a questionnaire. On the same day, they called me and said that I had to come to Yerevan for a three-day workshop.

After the workshop, I went through several more stages of selection and ended up in the top ten people who were lucky enough to join the Small Theater troupe. The repertoire of this theatre has special performances — inclusive — because disabled and non-disabled actors are included in the troupe on equal terms. The artistic director of the theatre Vahan Badalyan says that these are not only excellent performances but they also intend to change the attitude of society towards disabled people.

Since then, for five years now, I have been playing and dancing there, I’ve become famous in Armenia, travelled a lot, made new friends, went on tour on festival stages in many countries. It turns out that I only needed volition and desire.

I have a disability (Cerebral palsy) but it does not bother me to live a normal and fairly active life: drive a car, walk, dance, perform, work. I am an open person, on stage I feel confident and inspired. But it was not always so.

I used to have no dancing experience, my work was in no way connected with theatrical activity. Therefore, at the very beginning, it was a little physically difficult. I am sure that we constantly must keep working on ourselves. Then, other problems will be easier to solve.

In 2016, our troupe first performed abroad — we took part in the Tramway’s Unlimited Festival in the Scottish city of Glasgow. Our team presented the performance "Hiraeth" at the festival, which tells about the most difficult periods of Armenian history. The director of the performance was the British choreographer from Candoco Dance Company — Jemima Hoadly. We also worked together on the new inclusive production of “The Argonauts”, which marks the end of the four-year activity of the British Council’s international programme Unlimited: Making the Right Moves.

The theatre has changed not only my life. I remember that at an international festival in Armenia, 60-70 actors were involved in one of our performances! A huge building, different stages, unusual prop, such as the head of a cow, fish, pig. The performance was very emotional, people were shocked by what was happening on the stage! So, I’m sure that the inclusive theatre is also changing the lives of the audience, who after the performance, leave the hall with completely new feelings and thoughts.


Unlimited: Making the Right Moves is an international British Council programme that supports the professional development of disabled artists. The programme includes educational events, research and consulting work, support for the production of professional works in performing art.

More about the Unlimited programme:  

More about the “The Argonauts” project:  


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