Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Re/becoming a dancer

A woman doing a veil performance in a wheelchair. Source unknown
A woman doing a veil piece in a wheelchair
Late last week I received an invitation from one of the owners of Twisted Dance, a local belly dance studio, to join them for a video shoot.  I've been thinking about trying to bellydance in my wheelchair for a while, so I decided to drop an email to the person that sent me the invite.  I wanted to make sure they were cool with me using their event to try dancing this way, and if they were cool with it I needed to make sure the building was accessible.  I got an enthusiastic reply back with instructions on how to get to the elevator (the building is pretty old, so it was retrofitted to be accessible).

I'm not going to lie, I was nervous.  I'm an introvert by nature, and I get nervous in situations where I could be the center of attention or be the oddball in a group.  I prefer to be in control when I know I'm going to be the odd duck (I have a shirt that I bought when I first started using adaptive aids that says "I do my own stunts" because I'd rather diffuse staring with humor).

Friday night I dig through some of my belly dance gear.  What do I want to wear, what am I comfortable wearing, can I wear a hipscarf without getting coins or fringe stuck in the spokes, do I need any props for the video shoot (we were doing mock/mini classes for a videographer for promotional purposes)?  I settle on a pair of workout leggings that I used to wear for dance classes, a short skirt over the leggings (in lieu of a hipscarf because of the spoke concern), and a plain shirt.  I find my practice zills (a set of Saroyan zills) and my silk veil, both just in case.

On Saturday, it's raining and raining hard.  I'm really concerned about bringing the chair because I don't have a good way of cleaning the tires to make sure I don't mess up the floor.  I have a towel packed in my bag just in case I need to try to dry off the tires or the frame, and just pray that I don't leave tire tracks on the studio floor.  I decide to walk the chair into the building with my cane because I don't have a folding cane and trying to wheel with a cane plus a bag plus deal with non-hydraulic doors is a pain in the butt.

I get to the elevator without much problem, and it spits me out behind the studio near the bathrooms.  I feel a bit like I'm sneaking into the studio since the main entrance is near the stairs.  I open the back door and park my chair to let it dry from the rain, and hobble with my cane to the front lobby of the studio to check in.  I chat, get settled, talk to the owners & teachers to give them a heads up, and everything gets started.  Thankfully my chair dried off while I was socializing, so no wet tracks on the floor!

We get warmed up and do various movement drills.  I realize that I probably should attach the wheel locks to I don't roll.  I wince every time my seat cushion makes a weird noise.  I figure out that while I can do some seated hip movements, they still hurt (which is a pretty major "duh" moment because it means the unstable joint is moving...but I'm stubborn).

 I ultimately realize that while taking dance classes might take quite a bit of modification on my part and willingness for an instructor to let me do my own thing during lower body movements, I can still belly dance.  It'll take some figuring out how to modify some movements, especially if I'm learning a choreography with non-wheeled dancers...but it's doable.  I also have to be mindful when I'm choreographing or being choreographed to make sure I have options for my less able days.

The day ended with some awesome chitchat with some of the teachers & owners of the studio, talking about the picture I have above (and a video that's somewhere on YouTube with the same dancer), talking about the logistics of dancing with a wheelchair (like getting a veil stuck), the fact that there is one company that makes wheelchairs specifically for dance, and my promise to the instructors & owners that they would see me more often now that I know that this will work.


My next dance adventure is going to be reviewing a dvd for this blog called "Chair Aerobics for Everyone: Chair Bellydance."  I received a review copy of the dvd, so we'll see how it is.  The weight loss lingo on the box bothers me as someone that comes from a Health At Every Size standpoint, but maybe the instructor will have more of a holistic approach to fitness/movement.

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