When you live to dance, your greatest fear is that an injury might suddenly strip your body of its abilities. After an accident at age 15 left jazz and tap student Bonnie Lewkowicz paralyzed from the neck down, she thought she was experiencing just that nightmare. But now, 38 years later, she has proved that she can still live out her dream of dancing professionally. As a founding member of AXIS Dance Company, a contemporary group that welcomes dancers with or without wheelchairs, she helps people understand that physical limitations, when seen from a different perspective, actually present new possibilities for self-expression. Today Lewkowicz continues to dance and teach in California and is also the author of A Wheelchair Rider’s Guide: San Francisco Bay and the Nearby Coast, a resource for wheelchair-bound travelers. —Ashley Rivers
You knew from the moment you took your first dance class that you wanted to be a dancer. You loved the physicality, exhilaration and absolute abandon of dancing. You dreamed of a career on the stages of NYC.
Then, in an instant, it seemed that that dream was forever gone. Right now even the simplest movements, like bringing a fork to your mouth, feel impossible. You think your body is your enemy.
But keep hope alive. One fateful day someone will suggest that you come explore dancing with other disabled and non-disabled people. While right now you can’t imagine how you could ever dance in a paralyzed body, or that it could be enjoyable, you will realize that even though your body can no longer move the way it used to, the core of who you are—a dancer—is still very much alive. You will rediscover the thrill of dance.
It will take courage to go down this uncharted path. You will have to learn to focus on what you can do instead of what you can’t, and to not let other peoples’ ideas about who can dance detract from the pure joy you get from it. But it’s worth it. Eventually you will realize that, ironically, becoming disabled actually enriches, not limits, your dance experience.
Photo by Matt Haber
Well, this brings class videos to a whole new level! Choreographer Phil Wright and dancer Ashley Liai have been together eight-plus years, but she was still in total shock when he proposed to her mid-dance at Millennium Dance Complex earlier this week. Why? Well, the whole thing was unbelievably perfect.
In the dance industry, dancers don't always have a say in what they wear on their bodies. This can get tricky if you're asked to wear something that compromises your own personal values. So what should you do if you find yourself in this sticky situation? We sat down for a Q&A with "Dancing with the Stars" alumn Ashly Costa to answer that very question. Here's what she had to say about the options dancers have surrounding questionable costumes.
The groundwork for Erin Carpenter's company, Nude Barre, began when she was a teenager. At 16, she earned a spot in the residency program at The Kennedy Center in partnership with Dance Theatre of Harlem. "We were required to wear nude—as in, our actual skin tone—tights and shoes," she remembers. Carpenter brought her "sun tan" tights and a pair of pink ballet shoes with her, because that was all she could find. But she wasn't allowed in class because her dancewear didn't match her skin. "I was so embarrassed," she says. "I looked unprepared. I just didn't have the right nudes." Her teacher explained that the dancers dyed their tights and pancaked their shoes.
There are dancers and then there are DANCERS! Whitney Jensen, soloist at Norwegian National Ballet, is the latter. The former Boston Ballet principal can do it all. From contemporary to the classics this prima has the technical talent most bunheads dream about. Need proof? Look no further.
Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee's dance inducing hit, "Despacito," is so catchy it should probably come with a disclaimer that warns people of an uncontrollable itch to tap your feet or bob your head. Some might even feel inclined to go all out and break it down. Niana Guerrero is a prime example of "Despacito's" uncanny ability to unleash the red dressed emoji dancer within. 💃🏽 💃🏽