The Courage to Dance (video)

August 20, 2019

The Courage to Dance (video)

Taking a dance lesson took more courage than any other physical activity I’ve attempted. Yes, I row and play tennis and wheelchair rugby. I’ve tried adaptive rock climbing, sled hockey and downhill skiing. But dancing from my wheelchair has always been off-limits.


Because I know how to dance. At least I knew how to dance 30 years ago as a gymnast. Now my body doesn’t cooperate.

So when an inclusive and wheelchair dance class was recently offered, I gathered up my courage and decided to give it a shot. There were three wheelchair users of differing abilities, as well as three participants with Down syndrome.

Our instructor, Kristen Knable, started dancing when she was 7. Kristin uses a wheelchair due to spina bifida. After studying nonprofit leadership studies in college, she danced with the professional group Dancing Wheels Company out of Cleveland, Ohio.  

With teaching assistants Katie Kinman and Dinah Dunn, we began by warming up, then moved on to a few basic ballet movements. Finally, we settled in and learned a few counts of choreography. Each dancer’s ability was taken into consideration and the moves were modified as needed.

The hour-long class went by too quickly.

Unfortunately, I was only going to be able to attend one week of the three-week session. So I stayed after class and Katie continued to teach me the choreography. Then we recorded what had been learned during that hour and a half.

It’s uncomfortable seeing my ineptness in the video below. What I see in my head looks very different than what I see on the screen. I willed my arms and hands to do one thing, but I my quadly arms or hands don’t extend or move as gracefully as they once did. While trying to use as much my torso as possible, I lost my balance and fell forward several times. (I don’t have trunk muscles. I guess the chest strap might come in handy for dance, too.)

Despite its outward appearance, dancing felt good. It’s an emotional outlet I had lost. And I should mention it was a great workout: I was quite sore from using muscles I don’t normally use.

I truly believe that we can only grow if we get outside our comfort zone. My latest was dancing. What’s yours?


A gifted athlete. An unthinkable accident. Will a wheelchair crush her adventurous spirit?

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Jenny Smith

Jenny Smith

After a spinal cord injury at 16, I discovered that a wheelchair could take me places I never dared to imagined.

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