Wheelchair Dance


Tonight I wheelchair danced.

But that’s not where this story starts.

Once upon a time, I was afraid of dancing.  In fact, for most of my life I was afraid of dancing.  I never was super coordinated and I certainly lacked natural rhythm.  I was convinced I couldn’t dance and that I looked stupid trying.

Later, when I was old enough to have a few drinks first, I could get up the courage to dance a bit.  And when over a year ago now I ended up in a wheelchair, dancing seemed to be out of the cards forever.

But the world works in mysterious ways.  And someone named Jane McGonigal came into my life and with her eventually came her invention Top Secret Dance Off.  She and her games have changed my life for the better in innumerable ways and she has truly been a blessing to me, so when I heard about Top Secret Dance Off or TSDO I knew I had to be a part of it.

However, the way you participated in TSDO was by donning a disguise and submitting your video of you dancing to one of the dance challenges.  But I was in a wheelchair.  I could barely dance before.  How could I now?  But I am not so easily dissuaded from something I am determined to do.  So timid at first I made my first and then second video featuring Finger Dancing!

But then I began to joke to my fellow TSDO players that I would wow them with a wheelchair ballet.  Their response to the idea was so positive that I decided that it was something I had to do.  So I recruited my best friend and caregiver at the time Sarina (a real former ballerina) to help me.  The result wasn’t something either of us expected and the response to the video blew me away.  People laughed and cried and were moved and inspired.

For my wheelchair ballet video I won a mask.  The only condition of accepting the new mask as a reward was I had to make a video of me putting on the mask for the first time and dance whatever dance came out using a dance move known as “the solar eclipse” which I was told started in the elbows.  To this day I’m not sure what happened to me when I put on the mask, but my fear of dancing was conquered!  See for yourself…

So tonight I am unmasking myself to all of you because tonight while out to dinner and dancing with my dad and his girl friend I wheelchair danced without any mask at all and I didn’t have to think twice about it.  And although I didn’t see it myself, my dad said when I powered on my wheelchair to spin around on the dance floor, the people behind me watching applauded and cheered.

It occurs to me that the world is full of little miracles and hidden blessings like this.  Because without a wheelchair and Jane and TSDO I may have never challenged myself to get over my fear of dancing at all.

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6 Comments to

“Wheelchair Dance”

  1. On January 17th, 2010 at 12:30 am Kairol Rosenthal Says:

    I adore these videos. I’m a choreographer, but have not made work in a long while. I’m also a cancer patient. My relationship to dance is so conflicting. Your videos reminded me that there is a place in my life for dance to just be fun!

    Can’t wait to see more.


    Reply to Kairol Rosenthal

  2. On January 17th, 2010 at 8:58 am Heather Says:

    That’s SO awesome!! I love it!

    Have you seen the Glee episodes with the wheelchair dancing? You’d get a kick out of them.

    Here’s one of the dances: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kObpocPe-AU

    You can see all the characters in a coreographed wheelchair dance in episode 9, which is called “Wheels” – its’ free on hulu.

    Reply to Heather

  3. On January 17th, 2010 at 9:56 am WackyLisa Says:

    You’ve reminded me of how much fun I had at a workshop put on by AXIS Dance during college. I don’t think I’d ever felt more beautiful and comfortable in my own skin up till that point.
    Thank you.
    Plus, you just seem to be having so much *fun*.
    Thank you for sharing this.

    Reply to WackyLisa

  4. On January 17th, 2010 at 12:37 pm Alison Says:

    What an great blog! I used to dance to that song (turn around) alone in my room in 7th grade. And you do it with such energy!

    I’ve always loved dancing, especially alone, but never had a problem doing my dorky dances in public, just ask Alessandra. Being of drinking age just made it all easier. But then when I decided to stop drinking for my health, it was really hard to learn to dance again without alcohol. I remember the first part I stepped out on the dance floor I thought “I feel like an idiot!” and got right off. Slowly though I was able to start dancing sober again like a drunk person and it was just as fun. In the last year or so though I haven’t had the energy to dance at all and I’m not supposed to do any aerobic activity anyway.

    Then Friday night I had my own chair dancing experience. I went to Hotel Cafe with my boyfriend and his friends. I didn’t feel like going out but it’d been so long since I’d been out with people. We got there early so we could get seats, but there weren’t any, and I was about to go sit in the back bar by myself and cry when someone found me a chair. She was very nice. Then after the show we went across the street to a bar, where we had to go straight to the back to find me a chair. And then we waited 20 minutes while my boyfriend went to the restaurant part of the bar to get me a mug of hot water for my tea while his friends drank their cocktails.

    As soon as they finished their drinks they, all 3 of them boyfriend included, started dancing. It was funk music. It looked like so much fun even though no one else was really joining them. They kept trying to get me to dance but I just shook my head. I’d already told them I was too sick to go to school, but I guess they hadn’t figured out I was too sick to dance.

    But my boyfriend came over and started dancing in front of me and then his friend threw me her long plush scarf and I used it as a prop. Coffee mug in one hand, scarf in the other, we did a funky tango and remember feeling delightfully like an eccentric as I sat “dancing” in my chair. Even if it was just bobbing my head and waving around a scarf to the rhythm.

    I remember I really wanted to do TSDO but I think I got scared off or confused by the rules, which I’m sure are just what makes it so awesome.

    Congrats on getting applause for your dancing! :)

    Reply to Alison

  5. On January 25th, 2010 at 4:22 pm Kim Says:

    That was fantastic!!!!!!!!!!

    First, my fingers were goin’ on the keyboard – I challenge anyone to look at that ABBA video and not get those fingers twiching! : )

    The problem with the mask was that we didn’t get to see your smile, which MADE the wheelchair ballet video.

    The little ballet shoes made me think of those tiny finger skateboards that are so popular now – you could get some tiny salsa shoes, tiny waltzing shoes, heck, get some miniature Nikes and finger-break dance!

    This was fun, fun, fun! : ) Thanks for sharing it!

    Reply to Kim

  6. On January 26th, 2010 at 7:57 am Novel Patient Says:

    Thanks everyone for your kind comments and enthusiasm and for sharing your own dance stories! <3 <3 <3

    Reply to Novel Patient

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