From Ortho Shoes to Jazz Shoes: Dance & Disability

As a person with a disability, discovering my passion for dance during my high school years presented some obvious challenges. With the help of my mentor, supportive friends, and an unwavering commitment to pursuing my passions, I developed marked dance project, an integrated dance company for people with and without disabilities to create pieces of dance works that challenged societal notions of who a dancer is. I became the youngest person and youngest person of color to ever found and artistically director an integrated company in the U.S. at the age of 17. This keynote address aims to discuss invisible disabilities and the importance of creating space when one is unable to find a space that will foster their growth and support their dreams. It’s my story from wearing orthopedic shoes to help with my cerebral palsy to wearing jazz shoes and performing with the nation’s top integrated dance company (AXIS Dance Company) and other companies in the Tri-State area.

Step Off the Pedestal: My Warning to Student Leaders

By the completion of my third year in college, I had received the Lifetime Achievement Award and was viewed as one of the top student leaders at my university. The truth is that once I became a student leader my first year in college, there was no stopping me. I was determined to be the best, successful, and an agent of change on campus. From the president of the university, to vice presidents, associate provosts, deans, directors, faculty, and staff, I quickly became known as the “go to” student when they were looking for students who could get things done well. I was also a good academic student, belonging to (2) honor societies, having received a scholarship, and other national recognition for my work as a student leader. However, I spent a lot of my time as a student leader unhappy because others began to place me on this pedestal I never asked to be placed on. I was struggling to be perfect and by the time my last year of college came, I had been pushed off the pedestal and stripped of my student leader status. This keynote address aims to serve as a warning to student leaders not to allow themselves to become consumed by the politics, social expectations, and the pressures that come from being a student leader.

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