By Gracie Doran, IATG ContributorMay 30, 2016
When I first stepped out onto the dance floor, everything felt right. I was only three years old when I found my passion. Now at sixteen, I look back on my dance experience and how the competition and the collaboration affected me as a person.
When I was ten years old, just a few weeks after a dance competition, I had a hemorrhagic stroke that caused by a leak in my brain stem. I was completely paralyzed and had to learn everything over again...including dance. It only took two months before I walked out of the hospital straight to the dance studio. I used dance as a part of my recovery.
My dance teachers never hesitated putting me back on the dance floor. The first dance they put me in was "Little Shop of Horrors," and because I still wanted to dance but I couldn't walk very well, they put me on a rolling cart and rolled me around on stage as the plant. No one ever judged me because I was disabled.
Three years after my stroke I competed in a solo titled, “Let it Be”.
Teaching a dance to someone who is physically impaired can be very difficult. So my dance teacher, Ms. Jena, put herself into my shoes. She put weights on the right side of her body so she could help me dance to the best of my abilities. It showed my story of resilience and courage towards my journey to recovery. The first time I ever competed onstage with the dance, I cried. I have never felt so naked, but sharing my story and telling it the best way I knew how meant so much to me.
The thing with dance is that it’s a form of expression that I use to show emotion without words. After I started competing as a dancer more and more, the most amazing thing happened; people stopped and just watched. In the dance world when you’re at competition, you’re just there to see your teams perform, but when I danced you could hear a pin drop. When I was done dancing I would just stand there and for just a couple seconds I was able to see everyone's face, I don't think anything in my life so far has made such a huge impact on me as that dance had. Everyone in the audience would stand up and clap, even the judges would clap for me. People would line up when I would get off stage to tell me how much my dance inspired them. I competed that dance for two years.
When the year was over and it was finally time to move on to the next dance, Ms. Ali, another dance coach at our school, came up to me and asked me if I would like to start a new program called Rising Stars.
This program would feature a class for special needs kids where they could get the opportunity to dance just like I did.
I immediately agreed, and this is my third year teaching these classes. Every week when I go to this class and see the smile on their faces when they dance and how much it has affected them, it reminds me why I fell in love with dance. I'm proud to say that I'm a disabled dancer who, even though is not at the same competitive level as kids my age, has made an impact through dance and has made long lasting friendships because of it.
How do you express yourself? Art? Music? Sports? Take some today to appreciate your talents and use them to inspire those around you.
Gracie has been a competitive dancer since age 7, dancing and training 10 hours a week. Then she had a stroke that paralyzed her. Using her training and determination she was able to learn to walk, talk and eat again. Then, she started to dance again. She has been able to dance in front of thousands of people and has won many awards and recognition for my work.