We all face adversity in our lives. Obstacles for dancers can come in many forms. They may be physical (a chronic injury, muscular or structural limitations, sometimes even a person’s height can stand in their way). They may be in the form of other people (a discouraging teacher, a negative co-worker, an unsupportive family member). They can be mental obstacles or those that come from within ourselves (an eating disorder, procrastination, perfectionism). In fact, probably the obstacles that most dancers face fall into the latter category.
It is inspiring to know that people can overcome great odds. And it can be uplifting to realize that, not only are there others who struggle against adversity, but those who perhaps face greater obstacles than oneself. In honor of those who have overcome, I would like to share just a few stories of hardship and triumph with you. Perhaps they will help us (I am including myself) gain perspective regarding our own struggles. The list is a wide variety of examples, some may seem less significant than others but all of these achievements present very real difficulties in the lives of the dancers who have struggled to make their dreams come true.
Inwardly rotated hips and naysayers didn’t stop this dancer from becoming a professional.
Lauren Anderson – the first black American promoted to principal ballet dancer in a major U.S. dance company.
Alvin Ailey overcame poverty and prejudice to found a world-famous dance company.
Judith’s Story: the begginnings of AXIS dance company
Paraplegia did not stop this former professional ballet dancer.
The story of Tai Lihua, who lost her hearing at age 2 and now leads the China Disabled People’s Performing Art Troupe.
National Dance Institute transforms the lives of thousands of NYC public school children. Here is the story of just one of the students whose life has been altered by this program. The program and the stories of its participants are also highlighted in the following documentaries: He Makes Me Feel Like Dancin and Who’s Dancin’ Now?
Lisa Bufano is a double amputee and dancer/performance artist. See her story and her work.
Sometimes age can seem like a disability but Liz Lerman proves that everyone is a dancer.
I wanted to highlight the story of a blind dancer but had difficulty finding one person’s story. However, I did discover Touchdown Dance, whose work and workshops combine visually impaired and sighted dancers using contact improvisation techniques.
These are just a few of the personal stories of dancers and performers. There is inspiration everywhere.
If you know of an inspiring story you’d like to share or would like me to highlight on Dance Advantage, leave a comment or contact me.
Nichelle Suzanne is a writer specializing in dance and online content. She is also a dance instructor with over 20 years experience teaching in dance studios, community programs, and colleges. She began Dance Advantage in 2008, equipped with a passion for movement education and an intuitive sense that a blog could bring dancers together. As a Houston-based dance writer, Nichelle covers dance performance for Dance Source Houston, Arts+Culture Texas, and other publications. She is a leader in social media within the dance community and has presented on blogging for dance organizations, including Dance/USA. Nichelle provides web consulting and writing services for dancers, dance schools and studios, and those beyond the dance world. Read Nichelle’s posts.