From the moment I met Joan at Danzaire Studio, I noticed a unique energy about her. At first, it seemed like a kind of quiet, friendly, charisma on the outside. But the more that we talked, the more I understood that there was an even bigger and ‘louder’ depth of character looming inside of her. And boy was I right. I soon learned that there was remarkable story of strength and resilience behind Joan and her dancing, a story of courage and inspiration that I am so honoured to be able to feature in the form of an interview here on Dance Me Free.
Part 1: “Dancing has really taken me to a place of healing that I never imagined.”- Yesenia Peralta
Yesenia Peralta has always been one of those dancers who really stood out to me because of her flavor and natural movement both in her social dancing and stage performances. But her talent as a dancer has come to mean even more to me after getting to know Yesenia on a more personal level over the past few months. Through an in-depth interview with Yesenia, first conducted in July of this year,* I learned what a strong, courageous and fun loving woman lies within this dancer, this individual. Most of all, I was touched and deeply inspired by the passion for living that Yesenia shows off the dance floor as much as, if not more than, she has demonstrated in her years on the dance floor.
It is an honor to help her, through this interview, to share for the first time Yesenia’s story about her recent diagnosis with Multiple Sclerosis (MS,) and how it has affected her perspective and growth in many areas of her life. Thank you, Yesenia, for trusting me to help send your message out to all the people out there who want to know how you’re doing. I know you will continue to inspire others with your positivity and charisma wherever you go. You have definitely had a huge impact on my life from just a few months of knowing you.
*Note: This interview was conducted on July 23rd, 2012; therefore, any reference to time and location is reflective of Yesenia’s experiences up to that date.
Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me, Yesenia, especially with everything you’re going through right now.
That’s okay, girl. Like I wrote to you, la gente estan pendiente (laughs)
(Translation: the people are waiting, they are waiting to find out what is happening with me)
People know I’m sick but they don’t understand what’s going on and what my mission is in my head. But this is my moment to talk a little more personally about myself. And even though you might be asking me questions about dance here, this interview is still different than others in the past. Every interview I’ve ever done before has always been about ‘what’s next’. People are always concentrating on what is GOING to come- “Oh, when is your school going to be opening up? When is your dance company going to perform?” they always ask. It’s always about what I am GOING to be doing.
But this time, it’s a little different, you know? This is the first time I’m doing an interview since I’ve been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. And, to be honest, at first, I wasn’t interested in talking on a personal level to anyone. Three weeks ago, I would not have done this interview. A month ago, I would not have done this interview because I hadn’t found ‘my place’ yet, you know? (*see reference note at the start of the interview)
“I love dancing, and everything in my dancing career has been spectacular. But… I never had time to sit down and think, about… about ANYTHING to do with dancing until now.
… I’m doing better because dancing has really taken me to a place of healing that I never imagined. I didn’t even know that I needed dancing so much.
… It’s like everything kind of makes sense now.”
(Stay tuned for the in-depth, candid interview from which this excerpt was taken. The full interview with Yesenia Peralta will be published here in a few days, and the link will be posted on Dance Me Free’s facebook page as well. Follow us here, or ‘LIKE’ us on facebook to be updated on this and other future posts by clicking here: Dance Me Free on Facebook)
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.
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
It was a cold morning in December. My feet were unusually tingly on my way to the shower. I laughed, thinking that’s what I get for having worn a warm pair of woolen socks to sleep all night. I was sure that it was just a strong case of pins and needles. But stepping out of the shower, I was startled to find that no matter how much I scrubbed my thick towel against my skin, I couldn’t feel parts of my legs under it.
I tried not to panic, believing that the feeling – or lack of feeling – would subside. But within a few weeks, the numbness traveled to my stomach, and turned into a strain on my spine. On some days, I could barely bend down to help the students in my grade six classroom. And I felt tired after just an hour of any concentrated activity. My usual energy and enthusiasm was quickly transformed into an uncontrollable lethargy.
After many visits to various doctors and specialists, and finally being sent for an MRI exam in March, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I didn’t know much about it at the time, but had heard stories that it had the power to permanently disable or cripple. And sitting in the waiting room of the MS Clinic quickly added to my fears: patients in wheel chairs, canes and severe limps, and swollen feet surrounded me. Continue reading