The dancer in me can work with the wheelchair.
That’s what I kept telling myself as I nervously waited to go on stage two weeks ago.
I was dancing in “The Battle 4 the Cure” fundraiser.
Last December, needing a break from grading papers, I took myself to the NMC Hip Hop dance class finale performance in Milliken Auditorium. I witnessed men and women of all shapes and backgrounds take the stage and express themselves in their way, to their music. I saw former students who had developed incredible self-confidence despite having formidable challenges in their lives.
The teacher and emcee was a welcoming, supercharged 4-foot-11 dancer. I was intrigued by her. I sat in the darkness of the auditorium and felt tears running down my face. One of the custodians, a friend, asked me if wished I was on stage. Neither of us knew in that moment, that he’d plucked a chord deep inside of me.
Returning to my office, I emailed the instructor a thank you for her work with our students.The instructor, Joedy Annis, wrote back. In passing, I asked her if she’d ever taught someone using a wheelchair to dance. She said no, but had wanted to. We agreed to meet before her new hip hop class.
At our first meeting, she told me about an annual dance benefit she started to help provide respite services for families dealing with cancer. She’d created the benefit in honor of her beloved mother-in-law, Karen E. Annis, who died from cancer in 2011. Karen had been a teacher of children with special needs. Joedy beamed when she spoke about Karen’s spirit. Though I’d never danced in my wheelchair professionally, she invited me to be part of the benefit.
We emailed ideas back and forth. I told her I really liked Adele’s cover of the Cure’s “Lovesong.” In a short time, we were practicing the dance Joedy created for us. The first time we performed it, friend and battle dancer, Jacob, aka “Moon breaker,” watched and told me it was beautiful. His opinion and comments from the other dancers helped me feel confident that I had a place in the benefit.