“Those who say it cannot be done shouldn’t interrupt the people doing it.”
– Chinese Proverb
This is definitely one of my favourite quotes because it continues to remind me of the power of our own inner strength, despite the obstacles we might face. But what I love the most is meeting people who prove to be amazing examples of this- those individuals who, because of their own will, passion, and courage, manage to go beyond what they might normally be thought capable of doing, and then often inspire others to do the same.
Little did I know that one of these individuals, who I had the pleasure of meeting recently, would be a young teen- Ryan Morrissette. Ryan, a member of the hip hop crew Freshh, is a talented, charismatic dancer whose energy is well, … contagious, to say the least. His hard hits, quick and clean moves, and overall enthusiasm on stage definitely draw the attention of his audiences. But even off stage, Ryan seems to often be found smiling and sharing a positivity with friends and strangers alike that is truly refreshing. So when I heard that this young dancer has been dealing with a serious health condition since the age of two, I couldn’t believe it. You’d just never know that Ryan has Cystic Fibrosis if you saw him out there – the way he always seems to be giving it his all- whether on stage dancing, or co-emceeing and event, or just hanging out with his friends.
But that’s what Ryan does- he gives his utmost to this passion he has for dance, and to life in many ways, it seems. In fact, rather than letting CF stop him from pursuing his love of dance, Ryan uses dance as a way to heal his condition and to reach others out there to remind them to live life to the fullest. “I wasn’t supposed to be able to do a lot of cardiovascular exercise,” says Ryan. But if you saw him out there, training, leaping, doing flips and tricks- well, Ryan has pushed through many physical obstacles that might otherwise cause another person in his shoes to not even attempt any of it. And that kind of perseverance is extraordinary .
Ryan recently said in a video that he never wanted to be treated differently for having CF. And I just want to make it clear that Ryan, I am not singling you out here in this special feature because you have CF. But I do admit to singling you out for having the courage, tenacity, faith and an excitement about life that some people may never find. And here you are, finding it at age 18 or even earlier. Ryan, you are such an inspiration to so many people out there… reminding them to follow their dreams, to HAVE dreams, and to let nothing come in the way of those dreams. And THAT deserves recognition, absolutely.
Moreover, the other guys in the Freshh Crew have have also blown me away by their maturity in supporting Ryan, in showing so much compassion and understanding towards him, and being there for him, not just as fellow dancers but as friends and family. That is something many adults have a hard time doing, especially when they are unsure how to deal with the challenges faced by a loved one. But these teenagers and their choreographer embrace Ryan for all that he is, including his having CF. And that is very admirable. Check out what each one of the crew members had to say about how Ryan’s strength as a friend and dancer have impacted not only their dancing, but also their own growth as individuals.
Gabriel– we do a lot of charitable performances due to Ryan’s having Cystic Fibrosis. It makes us realize that so many people in our area and even around the world are less fortunate or are dealing with something really tough. And we’d really like to show our compassion towards them. Even if we inspire just one person- especially if they have some sort of disease like Ryan does- if we inspire them to take a dance class or something, well, that’s all we ever really wanted to do as a team, I think. It’s not always really about winning competitions or being high class dancers. It’s just about showing that we do honestly care about a lot of people out there. And we hope that what we do can help them in the future.
Zac– What Ryan goes through has really opened my eyes to the world around me as a dancer and makes me more aware of all the problems that are still occurring in this world. Being able to have that kind of constant reminder from Ryan helps me appreciate life. Because Ryan does live in kind of pain where he can’t breathe to the full capacity the way we can. And so, in some ways, it’s nice to have someone that close to me as a reminder that all of those things we might sometimes take for granted can be taken away. And so you gotta enjoy it all while you can, and that makes each moment of dance more meaningful to me as well.
MC– What Ryan goes through motivates us more than anything, I think. He talks about his disease like it’s nothing, but it’s hard for him. But he pushes through it. He’s a tough guy. He surpasses everyone’s expectation, because they all assume, ‘Oh, he’s gonna stop dancing soon, or oh, he can’t do this, he can’t do that because of the Cystic Fibrosis.’ But he works really hard to push through it and he always somehow seems to get stuff done.
Justin– Ryan is a constant reminder to us to perform every performance as if it’s your last one, ‘cause every one of his performances could be his last. And we always look out for him. If he needs anything we’ll give it to him. If he needs a break in practice, we understand when he takes a break.
Devan- Ryan’s got this disease, yet he doesn’t let anything affect him. He doesn’t let dance get him tired. He just keeps working. To me, Ryan is a reminder to work a hundred percent and to not let any excuses get in the way.
Cezar Tantoko (choreographer of Freshh)– with Ryan’s case, sometimes, as a coach, I forget he’s sick, because he always gives a hundred percent. He gives everything he can. So when he says something like,”I need to sit out,” I think, “Oh yeah, that’s right, I forgot.” When we do fitness training outside in the summer, and it’s hot, it’s harder for Ryan to train for long periods of time. But even when he sits out for a minute, he’ll get right back in there again pretty fast. I’ve never had to deal with anything like that before. But he makes it easy for me as a coach to still run the fitness training and routines full out with the group.
AND WHAT OUR RYAN’S PERSONAL THOUGHTS ON DANCING?
“I dance because it’s some something that just comes naturally to me. When I’m choreographing, practising, or performing, I can escape into my own world. Suddenly, I don’t have to do physio, I don’t have to take pills, I don’t have to go to the hospital. Suddenly, I don’t have Cystic Fibrosis. It’s just me and the music. On stage or in the studio, people can see a side of me that is rarely shown. It’s such a great feeling when you just shed that nervousness and just let the music move you.
What I get out of dance is not only discipline, a great work ethic, and self-fulfillment, but I’ve gained a whole new family. The other guys in the crew aren’t just my friends anymore, they’re my brothers, and our coach is like a second father to us.
Dance is important to me because not only is it helping me with my having CF, but I can also show the world that you really can achieve your dreams if you work for it. I wasn’t supposed to be able to do much cardiovascular activity at all, never mind compete with the top in the world and work with famous artists. But here I am, …doing it! I feel a message like that needs to be seen and heard, and shared with others. I know it would’ve helped me to hear that when I was younger.
So… what’s my goal as a dancer? It’s… well,… (smiles) just …TO MAKE THE WORLD DANCE .”
-Ryan Morrissette- Age 18
Check out this video of Ryan introducing Freshh’s performance at the 65 Roses Gala. The crew danced at this event in support of Ryan and Cystic Fibrosis:
To keep udated on events in which Ryan and Freshh Crew will be performing click here: Freshh on Facebook
To find out more about Freshh and their amazing Choreographer- Cezar Tantoko, click here: Freshh Hip Hop Crew