Sunday, May 19, 2013


One of the things that I enjoy most about life is traveling to different states and then reconnecting with people when they come back into your own city. I experienced this once back in March around my MOMENTA show and the other one just happened for the third time this week. I'm going to talk about connections and then go back to how I met these people.

Connections are what make your world and your surroundings interesting. You can find them just about anywhere. You can find them through school, a spiritual community, a dance community, if you are a part of a band or orchestra, and in my case Toastmasters. But the most exciting thing is you never know when and if you will ever see these people again because a lot of these people are from different areas of the world and you just came together for that particular time. For example, if you go on a band retreat you never know if you will see these people again. If you go on a young adult trip such as Birth Right for young Jewish adults wanting to experience Israel, you hope to see them again but you don't know if you ever will. And it is a wonderful thing when your paths do cross. I experienced this crossing once in March and once just last night. These people are Petra Kooper and Alice Shepherd. 

I met these two amazing people in 2008 when I was a part of the AXIS Dance Company summer intensive. Petra was a participant and at the time Alice was a company member. Back in March, Petra came to Access Living in Chicago to talk about women rights and the expression of integrated dance to the UIC Disability Studies Program. She was here for a two day event, one of the days she also ran a dance workshop which I was a part of. During that day, two amazing things happened. I was not only able to reconnect with Petra but people that didn't even know me helped me get out of my chair. You see, at this time, we were struggling to find assistants. So my mom stepped out of the room for a minute to answer a call from one of the perspective candidates. And usually I am hesitant to let strangers help me get out of my chair due to a horrific experience I had in 8th grade. But something told me when half the class offered to help me that everything would be alright. 

At this workshop, because of their help, I was able to experience some of the most freedom I have ever experienced in my entire life. And freedom is very hard to come by when you have a disability. The amazing thing was, in this experience I was not only able to experience freedom for myself but help others to accomplish freedom and that in itself is a gift for someone with a disability because often times when you have a disability you are the receiver and you have a harder time being the giver due to your limitations. Not because you don't want to give, just because of your limitations. It is a time in my life that I will never forget.

The other connections happened with Alice Shepherd. One time when she came to perform at Access Living and did a workshop at MOMENTA. The second time, she performed at the Auditorium Theater with AXIS Dance Company in downtown Chicago where the Joffrey Ballet performs. And a third time, which is just this weekend, she is here for the Bodies of Work Festival dancing with some of the MOMENTA company members. A festival all about disability, art, and culture. I got to see her at the opening celebration of this festival. I feel extremely lucky to not only have met these people, but that our paths have crossed again. My wish for you is to go out and explore the world the most you can. Meet amazing people, go beyond your boundaries both physically and psychologically. Because those are where you meet the most amazing people. 

This summer I will be taking part in three different trips in which I hope to build connections. The first one is actually next week. Tori and I are traveling once again this time to St. Louis to the Spring to Dance Festival to support Kris Lenzo, another company member. The second experience I will be having is getting the chance to go to Dancing Wheels Summer Intensive where I hope to meet dancers. Both of these experiences I hope not to only enjoy myself but build connections with my dancing community. The third experience I will be having this summer is going to another camp and though it will be different than my camp in Colorado, I hope to build relationships there that will help me to feel even stronger as a person with a disability. There aren't many times in my life where there are just people with disabilities so I try to take advantage and I don't want it to be this way all of the time but sometimes it is nice to have these chances. So think about your connections. How can you build them and make them stronger? 
In the Spirit of dance, I would like to leave you with this song from the Access Living Dance Show that was a part of the Bodies of Work Festival.

Dance Floor
by Pennie Brinson

I don’t move like you
I move like this
I don’t dance like you do
When I twist and sway my way
To the Dance Floor

Dancing, dancing, dancing, dancing,
Dancing, dancing, dancing, dancing,

Might not hear the beat
Or clap on time.
I got two left feet.
But I’m
Just fine


If you want you can dance with me
Do your thing
And be

Dancing, dancing, dancing, dancing, dancing.

Have a wonderful summer!

Jessi and Teddy