Once paralyzed, this professional ballroom dancer decided to create the first professional wheelchair ballroom dance company in the nation to help share the power of dance with individuals of all abilities.
It’s my destiny to share the power and magic of dance to individuals of all abilities,…everyone deserves to dance, and everyone can dance.
At its very core – dance, the artistic and very expressive art form of movement, brings joy to many. This is evident in our country’s love for hit TV shows such as Dancing With the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance. While simply watching this form of self-expression is a mesmerizing experience, many agree that performing it is even more fulfilling – regardless of physical disabilities. ABC’s Dancing, which kicked off its 22nd season earlier this week, has in the past featured amputee contestants on its roster. Amy Purdy and Noah Galloway, in their respective seasons, showcased a level of artistry, passion, strength, and courage that instantly touched all our hearts.
For Marisa Hamamoto, dance was a part of her life from the young age of six. She first fell in love and decided to pursue a career as a professional ballet dancer after seeing a performance by the New York City Ballet. As a college student, Marisa continued to train and dance often performing regularly as a contemporary dancer, until one day she collapsed while dancing at a studio. She was diagnosed with a rare disease called spinal cord infarction, which causes paralysis. There is no cure for this disease and Marisa was told she might never walk again. Bedridden for over a month, Marisa’s determination to continue dancing is attributed to the miracle that allowed her to move again. After intense therapies, Marisa’s road to recovery began as she learned to walk again.
Her physical recovery happened faster than anyone imagined and Marisa was able to walk out the hospital after two months. For several years, Marisa’s fear of the paralysis returning stopped her from dancing altogether. In 2010, she discovered salsa and ballroom dancing and that partner dancing in particular was a great way to continually rehabilitate her mobility. By 2014, Marisa discovered wheelchair dancing at the LA Abilities Expo and recognized immediately the art form and beauty in it. Wheelchair ballroom dancing is a partner dance between a wheelchair user and an able-bodied dancer. The style of wheelchair dance sport originated in Sweden and has flourished worldwide. In our nation, the University of Delaware became the first college to develop the first accredited program in 2008.
Although still unsure about sharing her struggles and fears, watching those with physical disabilities overcome their hurdles on Dancing With the Stars’ “AT&T Spotlight performances” helped Marisa realize the power of sharing one’s story as inspiration.
There were inspirational dancers such as Victoria Viren a young ballet dancer who overcame cancer, Steelo Vazquez a professional dancer who was recovering from a brain aneurism, and Joshua Johnson who tapped his way in the NY subways to earn money for college. As I shared my story to students and clients I started to wonder if I would have found a way to dance if I hadn’t recovered from paralysis.
In 2015, Marisa founded America’s first professional wheelchair ballroom company, Infinite Flow with a mission of offering encouragement and inspiration to others. The company focuses in particular on performance, cultivation, community outreach, and education. Dancers of all ages and abilities have the opportunity to reach their full potential and work as a team to reach that goal.
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Through her work, Marisa hopes to break barriers for people of all abilities and those who continue to live with paralysis. To learn more about this company you can go to Infinite Flow’s website.