Happy International Dance Day: A Celebration that Everyone CAN Dance (Part 2)

In yesterday’s post, I featured a few disabled dancers who have shown the resilience of the human spirit. Today, I want to feature a few more courageous souls who inspire me beyond imagination.

Adrianne Haslet-Davis, a 33-year-old ballroom dancer, lost part of her left leg during the tragic bombing of the Boston Marathon in 2013. But after having visited her in the hospital, MIT professor Hugh Herr decided to build her a high-tech prosthetic leg, known as a bionic limb, to allow her to dance again. Around the first anniversary of the bombing, Haslet-Davis went on stage again and performed a dance with Christian Lightner at the 2014 TED Conference in Vancouver. Read more about the story here, or watch the entire TED Talk by Prof. Herr, which climaxed at the end with the highly emotionally charged performance by Haslet-Davis and her partner, here. Below is a short clip with some snapshots of the dancer’s performance:

These days, Noah Galloway has become America’s household name and superhero for his amazing performances of chacha, samba and more on the TV series “Dancing with the Stars.” This Alabama Army veteran lost part of his two left limbs during a 2005 bomb blast in Iraq. He did not only survive but thrived after getting a bionic prosthetic leg. In the past 10 years he trained himself in all kinds of athletic activities—running marathons, climbing mountains, conquering obstacle courses and even parachuting from airplanes. Now he has even picked up latin dance with the help of his partner Sharna Burgess. Watch one of his performances below and stay on to hear the judges’ touching comments too!

 

In China, there is a dancing couple who do not have the help of high-tech prosthetic limbs but they dance beautifully nonetheless. They were the first disabled dancers I ever saw performing in a professional manner. Their stories are both tragic and inspirational. Ma Li was trained as a professional dancer and joined an art troupe when she turned 18, but later on she lost her whole arm in a car accident. Having danced almost her whole life, she couldn’t imagine how she could carry on living. But with the help of her mother as well as a program for disabled people that encouraged her to get back into dance, she rebuilt her life and started training and performing on stage. As for her partner, Zhai Xiaowei, he lost his left leg at the age of four while playing and then falling from on a heavy truck. He trained as a paraplegic cyclist but one fateful day he met Ma Li in the rehabilitation center. She introduced him to the world of dance and invited him to learn dancing from her. Eventually he gave up cycling and took up dance with her. The rest is, as they say, history. Since then, they have been dancing on stage and in TV shows, wowing the audience in China (Today, they are married with a child). Here is a video showing their award-winning dance, “Holding Hands”:

Simona Atzori is an Italian visual artist and dancer born without arms. Thanks to the strong support of her mother and her own determination, she started painting at the age of 4 and dancing at the age of 6—against all odds. Later on, she even pursued a university education in visual arts in Canada, combining her passion for both painting and dance. She has been exhibiting her paintings around the world and performing dance on stage. I am so impressed by the expressiveness of her legs and feet, as well as the strength of her core! In the following video,  you can watch her perform at the Paralympic Games in Turin:

I would like to wrap this post up with the same closing remark I made yesterday in case you have not read that post.

These dancers are so inspiring because they are not born with the “right” body or have the “right” conditions. They are great despite lacking those.

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Happy International Dance Day: A Celebration that Everyone CAN Dance (Part 1)

Today is the International Dance Day, which was inaugurated in 1982 by the International Dance Theatre (ITI)’s Dance Committee to be celebrated every year on the April 29, the anniversary of Jean-Georges Noverre (1727-1810), the creator of modern ballet. Each year a message from an outstanding choreographer or dancer is circulated throughout the world. The intention of the “International Dance Day Message” is to celebrate Dance, to revel in the universality of this art form, to cross all political, cultural and ethnic barriers and bring people together with a common language: dance. This year, the message comes from Spanish choreographer and dancer Israel Galván. You can read the message by going to the following website:
http://www.international-dance-day.org/en

I really like this all-embracing idea of celebrating dance regardless of the dance form and who the dancers are. This year, I would like take this opportunity to present a few extremely inspiring dancers and the messages they share with the world.

Luca “Lazylegz” Patuelli, who creates powerful dances with his crutches, says: “No matter what age, race, sex or ability one may have, everyone can dance. Dance is within all of us. Some choose to share it with others and some choose to keep it to themselves. Life is a dance whether we know it or not. We are constantly dancing with every movement we make, with every breath we take, and with every beat our hearts make, a rhythm is being created. It’s the slightest movements that make the greatest difference in a performance, just like in life it’s the little things that matter. Dance is the connection between you and the universe while we are dancing we are developing ourselves based on the energy, the emotions, and the challenges we experience. It is up to us to determine how we want to communicate our dance to the world. Dance is the ultimate form of self-expression and it is the escape that always reminds us that everything is going to be ok. Dance challenges us to surpass our limitations by discovering strength within. So, live your life to the fullest and dance beautifully!”

Alissa Sizemore, an eight-year-old American girl, lost her calf in an horrible traffic accident last year. A car drove over her and she lost her entire right calf. Despite the tragedy, Sizemore, who started learning dance at the age of four, picked herself up courageously and started taking ballet lessons again after she got her prosthetic. “I don’t want to give up!” she said. “I just want to dance!” Within a year, she is on the stage performing, and her mother is sharing what this brilliant little star can do with the whole world through videos she posts on YouTube. So inspiring! She made me tear up!

Another story that inspires tears is that of the Latkovski sisters. The younger sister, Gracie, has cerebral palsy and cystic fibrosis and is wheelchair bound, but she does not let that stop her from dancing. She started to take dance lessons since she was three and loves it. Her elder sister Gracie has choreographed a special dance, “Reflections,” to perform with Quincy on the WHAS Crusade for Children telethon. The choreography is ingenious, considering how young even the elder sister is. Absolutely touching video. Get yourself a tissue before watching!

Lastly, I would like to share with you a video showing a group of deaf dancers. Although they can’t hear the music, they can feel the rhythm in their breastbones. One of the dancers, Tashina, has been dancing since she was 3 years old. She has some words of encouragement for anyone who aspires to be a dancer: “It feels like a different world, one that I can shape myself and let go of everything I am going through and just leave them on the dance floor. I just feel so free. Don’t give up. You are going to experience a lot of frustration, and trials and tribulations. You just have to take one day at a time, and it’s going to add to your life experience. Just don’t give up. Once you set those goals you will be able to accomplish them. As long as you keep chasing them.”


These dancers are so inspiring because they are not born with the “right” body or have the “right” conditions. They are great despite lacking those.

Click  here to read Part 2.