It seemed like something I would really love. When I first heard that a nationally known wheelchair dance company was coming to my city and performing, I knew I wanted to go see them.
For several years, another type of dance, wheelchair ballroom dance, had been a big part of my life. Up until that point, I fought my disability, believing that I had to fight my body or push it into submission in order to accomplish what I wanted. But dancing proved me wrong. It was the totality of dance that had enabled me to begin to work with my body and move gracefully; to embrace that my wheelchair could glide and turn to orchestrate beautiful choreography. It was through dance that I learned to be gentle, both physically and emotionally with the body I got when I was born. I can say with conviction that I love dance, and all that it helped me to understand.
Life gets in the way sometimes, and because Brandon (my dance partner) and I are both currently busy doing other things, we don’t dance on a consistent basis anymore. He is now a daddy to an amazing little boy, and I am much more focused on my writing than I used to be.
Even so, I am pretty sure that if we were ever to be given an invitation to dance in the future, we would be as excited as kids counting down the days until Christmas after they first heard of the concept of Santa.
But because I don’t get to dance as much as I once did these days, I was excited to get tickets to this show. Other people apparently had the same idea for me. As soon as I started to inquire about buying tickets, I had three separate friends offer me a pair for free. That sealed the deal for me. Transportation worked out pretty easily as well. It felt like I was supposed to go to that show.
When I got to the theater I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Although I knew this wasn’t going to be the wheelchair ballroom dance I was used to, I didn’t know what it would be. I watch videos of wheelchair dancers on YouTube as much as I can, and I am blown away by what some people can do. And I happen to love many different kinds of dancing.
Those dancers did not disappoint. There were four dancers total. One was a male wheelchair user, two women were missing one of their arms and the other male did not have an obvious disability that I could see. Every routine was perfectly in synch. Every routine pulled deep emotion out of me that I can only hope to convey when I perform. It was intense. It was amazing. It was a tangible reminder of why dance will always be part of my soul.
One of the things that I found interesting during the evening is what happened during the intermission. When the house lights came up, I saw many wheelchair users in the crowd. That was not a surprise. Most of them I knew. Having lived in my hometown for 22 years now, that was not unexpected either. What struck me was that in that crowd, I knew wheelchair users from many different areas of my life.
During the intermission of that show, I saw wheelchair users from the Ms. Wheelchair Kansas program, from the advocacy agency I used to work for, a woman I used to go to dancing competitions with and her family, and a professor that I know from the University of Kansas.
In past years, so many well-meaning people have suggested to me that I try to do more social things with people with disabilities. And while I understand their intention, that line of thinking tends to make me crazy. From an outsider’s perspective, I have a common bond with people with disabilities so we should all get along and support each other…
I just don’t see it in quite the same way.
To me, the line of thinking that I should befriend people with disabilities simply because they have disabilities is the same as saying a whole lot of people with freckles should gather in a room to socialize because they have that characteristic in common. Don’t get me wrong, two people with freckles might really like each other, and that is great. But I would be willing to bet that it was their personalities that would make them want to spend time together, and not the freckles themselves.
People with disabilities have done a whole lot in this country as a group. The Americans with Disabilities Act would never have been passed without all of us crossing disability lines and advocating together. There is strength in numbers and there is strength in a diverse group of people who want the same thing. Those advocates also came from all “walks” of life.
The group of dancers with various disabilities on that stage last month pulled together with a common goal of performing several phenomenal dance routines, and they succeeded. They were all dancers.
I was too far away to see clearly, but I bet only some of them had freckles.