“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 . Continue reading
“Dance and Hip Hop have been my constant saving graces. Dance is the best way I can communicate. Hip Hop is the language that my soul speaks. The marriage of the two on the dance floor is where I feel most “myself”.
In my recent exploration of expressive art therapy, I have discovered even more about dance and movement and its ability to heal. Before I even knew what this therapy was, I was already doing it, without even realizing it. Spending countless hours alone in the studio in my own thoughts, I was expressing- through dance- what I cannot say in words.
The dance floor is my diary, my confessional, my haven.”
– Joan de los Reyes
This video was sent to me by my friend Orin who definitely appreciates the beauty and power of dance to work wonders. Here’s what Orin had to say about this inspiring short film:
“I saw this posted by one of my idols – Alicia Keys, a strong woman and artist. It spurred some crucial thought for me. The view of dance as a revolution (revolution – a sudden, complete or marked change in something) has always been there, in front of me, but never this concisely.
It made me want to ask – What walls does dance help YOU to break down? Societal, personal, mental or physical. Whatever rings the bell of truth for you, I want to know.”
– Orin McRey
Thank you so much Orin for sending this along and for your thought provoking insights into it. This is amazing.
“Marc was the assistant choreographer of “Jesus Christ Super Star”…. He loves dance. Not only are his choreographies and his vision incredible, but he’s also a beautiful person. He fought cancer last year and [I believe] he was able to do it because he loves life. That kind of drive… absolutely inspires me.” – Mary Antonini
This was the first introduction I had to the performer and choreographer Marc Kimelman. We hadn’t met in person, but I found it hard NOT to want to get a hold of him after hearing about his talent and accomplishments as an artist, as well as his courage, passion and strength for living. The more I read up on Marc and learned about him, the more curious and excited I was to hear details about his story, from the artist himself. I really appreciated the way Marc responded with such openness, trust and enthusiasm when asked if he would have time to share his thoughts. But what stood out to me the most was that Marc was absolutely correct in describing himself as being ‘as real as possible’, because that’s what I felt throughout the entire interview- that on the other end of that skype call was a genuine, positive spirit, an individual who shares his experiences with a creativity and depth that is truly inspiring.
Besides your obvious talent as a performer and choreographer, I think it’s really inspiring for other young guys to see a guy like you dancing from a very young age. Was it ever an issue for you growing up that you were a boy and liked to dance?
You know, it probably was an issue in terms of maybe people treated me differently, but I really didn’t have any time to think about that because it wasn’t really a choice. It was just ‘I’m going to dance’, and that’s kind of just the way it’s going to be (laughs). I put on shows for my family ever since I was four or five years old. And my dad actually put me into dance because he knew someone at a studio. I tried it and fell in love with it. It definitely got a bit more trying once I got to junior high. But once people actually SAW what I did, people’s views changed. And it became ‘cooler’ (laughs) to dance.
Do you feel that the stigma around boys dancing still exists?
Yes, I think that there still exists a negative stigma towards boys dancing. But there is something about the way the world has changed with the recent popularity of So You Think You Can Dance, and lots of dance-based movies, and shows like All the Right Moves. I think these really open people’s minds towards males dancing and they also prove that it can be a masculine thing as well. Besides, people who have the passion for dance, or anything else, shouldn’t let anything stop them from getting to class. I’m really happy to have started at a young age. And it’s exciting to see how strong and confident the up- and- coming male dancers are.
I think dancing is an amazing art and talent on its own, but I think that choreography also takes a whole other mindset. Are there places you go to, or people or experiences that you look to. for new ideas?
Well, I look to a few different places. Physically, I still love taking class. And I think that’s really important for me because it forces me to move in different ways. When I was sick, I couldn’t dance at all, for at least five months. So I took up Tai Chi because that was something that I could do. It was really low impact, it had me moving, and it became quite meditative for me, and I still do it a couple of times a week, just on my own. And so just seeking out new disciplines, new classes, and new teachers keeps the ideas fresh. And there’s usually something in there that inspires an idea or a thought, or just a different way of moving that I wouldn’t have thought of if I had just been by myself working in a studio.
In terms of creating full pieces, I usually start and end with the text. I’ll look at lyrics for whatever song I’m choreographing. That’s always something that really brings it home for me. And I will write out a piece word for word about what I want it to say. That way, if I ever get lost, or experience a kind of ‘choreographer’s block’, I’ll always go back to the text and remind myself what it is that I’m truly trying to say
“We cannot make another person change his or her steps to an old dance, but if we can change our own steps, the dance no longer can continue in the same predictable pattern.”
– from The Dance of Anger- by Harriet Goldhor Lerner, Ph.D.
In a previous article, I described the impact salsa dancing has had on my health. Since then, I have been touched by the number of people who opened up to me about their own stories around dancing.
In particular, Peter Ferreira’s account of how he became a tango dancer is proof of the truly transformative power of dance.
Peter, formerly in the contracting business, worked independently for five years. His friends described him as focused, perseverant, vivacious and amusing. He worked hard and was goal oriented, and from the sounds of it, Peter didn’t let anything get in the way of his goals.
But in January of 2002, Peter was involved in a serious car accident that changed his plans and his life. Approaching Nordel Hill, in Vancouver, he was hit by an oncoming driver. Although Peter was in his own lane, going in the opposite direction, the driver heading towards him lost control of his car, and crossed the center line. Peter attempted to dodge the car but couldn’t. Witnesses say that the car that collided with the driver’s side of Peter’s van was travelling at the speed of about one hundred kilometers per hour.
Fortunately, Peter survived, but the impact of the crash left him with a body that needed much repair. Two of the major bones in his leg were shattered – his femur and tibia. Rods were placed along the length of these bones, along with anchoring screws, to help the bones redevelop. Though the hardware was implanted to aid Peter in his recovery, the screws were too long for the bones, and this caused him extreme discomfort and pain. Yet he had to endure having the equipment in his body for three years.
There were also many other repercussions Peter had to face because of the accident. One of the most severe was damage to his left frontal lobe. The result was a blood clot in his brain. This had a huge effect on his memory. “I went to bed on a Saturday and the next thing I knew, I woke up on a Wednesday in the hospital,” he explained. Peter couldn’t remember any details of the accident. In fact, there is a six month period of his life, around the time of the crash, of which he has no recollection.
Peter’s loss of memory did not just revolve around moments in time. He also struggled to retain information that had been built up over years of experience. He lost most of his contracting skills and was struggling to remember how to use the tools with which he had been familiar for over twenty years.
Peter underwent rehabilitation treatment for two years. He worked with physical therapists and was put through a series of cognitive tests. After some time, he tried working out – using weights and a treadmill- and also tried swimming to strengthen himself. But he was not seeing the results that he desired. He had trouble focusing, and the activities suggested to him were very solitary.
Understandably, Peter experienced much frustration and anger. The accident had a considerable impact on his daily routines. He was having trouble sleeping, he was in pain, and he didn’t know if he could ever return to his previous job.
Yet, despite all the setbacks, Peter still managed to retain his determination and perseverance.
Two years after the accident, at a friend’s birthday party, Peter met Geraldine. She was a dancer and had been performing and teaching tango for over twenty years. Geraldine was moved by the story of Peter’s accident and encouraged him to try tango. She gave him her card, and Peter called her two weeks later.
Though Peter had not had any previous dance training, his attitude, teamed with Geraldine’s patience and teaching expertise, allowed Peter to excel quickly. Geraldine also knew something that Peter was yet to discover – that dancing had the power to heal, “I could tell he really needed the lessons, and there was no way I was going to let him walk out the door without seeing where the dancing went, and what it could do for him,” said Geraldine. Continue reading
Thousands of emotions well up inside me throughout the day. They are released when I dance. -Abraham Lincoln