Adaptive Adventure

Disability and Dancing with the Stars

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Fred and Ginger we are not.  But we have been known to bust out our collective dance moves at weddings, and Geoff carries his skills on the national and international stage as a professional skier–and, yes, sometimes Geoff wheels over my toes or I spin him too hard into innocent bystanders.   And we are sorry about that.  But mostly, people are amazed by the way he can still dance in his chair.   Dancing with Geoff is still really fun.

This picture was our first dance as husband and wife, and we were pretty smooth on the deck overlooking our White Mountains.  However, later that evening, we found ourselves at the Beacon Resort when some professional ball room dancers invited us onto the dance floor to show off our moves.  This felt like Dancing with the Stars: the Lincoln Woodstock, NH edition.  It had been an awesome day, and no doubt we were tired, but in front of a hundred or so “professionals” and a few late straggler friends and family members, I dumped him right out of his wheelchair doing a signature move we had done a thousand times before.  Not really sure how it happened, but my sweet man only lay in a crumpled pile on the floor for a split second before men rushed from all sides of the dance floor to scoop him back up into his chair, chanting, “Finish the dance- finish the dance.”  It was like Footloose and Dirty Dancing and Rudy combined into one moment of sheer awesomeness.  And we, indeed, finished the dance.

So on Monday nights, we watch Dancing with the Stars.  Geoff wants to know when the wheelchair dancer is up next– I think he is secretly (or not so secretly) waiting for the call.  While he is a “star” in our world, I’m not sure he qualifies for the program, but he is a tough one to convince otherwise.  They’ve included dancers with  disabilities ranging from being deaf, to being blind to those having amputated limbs or PTSD.  Nyle is my favorite dancer, who has made it into the finals, not because he is deaf, but because he is a damn good dancer , incredibly handsome and humble, who also can’t hear any sounds.   Yet, he tells a story every time he takes to the floor.  The fact that there is a sign language interpreter alongside only adds to the story he shares with the world about defying odds and overcoming challenges.

For the many ladies who had the pleasure of dancing with Geoff prior to his snowmobile accident in 1995, I’m sure his fancy footwork rivaled his days as a fragrance model at Macy’s Department Store at the Danbury Fair Mall.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Geoff “modeled” fragrances often wearing fun outfits to accompany the different scents for men.  See, this alone could have made him famous.  For those of you who have never experienced “dancing with wheels,” it’s truly an aerobic exercise where the moves come from the push and pull of one’s arms.  Timing, as in all dancing, is also essential.   Knowing whether your partner has abdominal muscles which engage when dancing is an important detail because that matters with spinning.  Now, I’m no dance expert despite my eight years of jazz at Belinda Bridgman’s School of Dance.  But Geoff has always been a good teacher: patient, creative, and full of encouragement.  And, well, I’m just a really good dance partner, completely happy with my own moves but more than willing to learn new steps and ways of collaborating on the dance floor.

And so while I do believe Geoff is a great dancer, I’m not sure the DWTS folks will ever take on a person who utilizes a wheelchair.  But maybe they are running out of challenges and Geoff Krill could be just the wild card they need.  Our conversations take us back to when Geoff wanted to create a reality show for newly injured people with spinal cord injuries, which would have been called The Wheel World.  He and some of his sidekicks would take on a group of 5 or 6 newbies and show them (after completing rehab) about really functioning in the world–the important “stuff” like dating, grocery stores, bars, and dance floors.

What’s been fun to watch over the years though are the different ways the professional partners have adapted their rehearsals and choreography to highlight strengths and find ways to overcome weakness.  I suppose that is a little like real life with all of our partners. The ones we are truly meant to be with bring out our best qualities, and the result, well, if not exactly magic on the dance floor, can illustrate that despite shortcomings, with hard work and creativity, we may all tell our story a little differently.

 

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