Written by Brittany Shawnté
I read this story and it really touched my heart and inspired me. A woman, inspired by her own paralysis, created a dance studio that puts dancers in wheelchairs in the spotlight!
In 2015, dancer and founder Marisa Hamamoto created Infinite Flow, which focuses on the talent of these dancers, in spite of their disabilities and the stereotypes that follow. “People with disabilities lived with the stigma that they can’t do this, they can’t do that, they can’t dance, they can’t walk, they can’t talk,” Marisa said to Inside Edition. “When you dance with a partner, you really forget who you’re dancing with. You forget their age, you forget their ability, disability, ethnicity, height, weight, you know, forget all of that. You start to see people and feel people as people, not a person in a wheelchair.” It’s empowering to watch, but I can imagine that it must be even more empowering to actually DO.
The idea for the studio came after a traumatic experience in Marisa’s own life. 10 years ago, she was in a contemporary dance class when she suddenly became paralyzed from the neck down. Doctors diagnosed her with spinal cord infarction, a neurological disorder that can best be described as a stroke in the spine. “I was told by the doctor that I may never be able to walk again” she said. “Honestly, I thought my life was over and thought my dance career was over as well.” She was able to walk again two months later, but experienced PTSD after it, especially as doctors predicted it could happen again out of the blue.
But Marisa’s love of dancing, specifically partner dancing, helped her to heal. She reached out to Piotr Iwanicki, who teaches and dances from his own wheelchair, to create and expand Infinite Flow! Now the studio not only offers inclusive dance classes, but also performances highlighting choreography that able-bodied and disabled dancers can do together! “It doesn’t matter if you are using crutches, wheelchair, power chair,” Piotr said. “You can always dance.”
“Regardless of whether you have a disability or not, Infinite Flow has a place for each person,” Marisa added. “We all face challenges and dancing’s a great way to kinda let go, let loose.” It’s inspiring to see because it reminds us all that we shouldn’t put all of these restrictions on ourselves of what we can do. “There are no limitations,” Marisa shared. “The possibilities are endless and I think that’s the message that we’re naturally emitting out.” Well said!