Why I Dance (with arthritis)

I created this video ostensibly for a Jazz Video Contest in 2010, but in reality the idea had been kicking around my head for a while and I just needed an excuse to get out and actually complete my vision 🙂  It pretty much speaks for itself, but I will add a few notes about: 1) Why I made the video, 2) What the impact has been, and 3) What dancing means to me today, one year after the creation of this video.

1) My main objective in creating this video was to show that everyone can enjoy the swing dancing community, regardless of what challenge they may have in their life (physically, emotionally, etc).  Many people in the Seattle dancing community had no idea I had Rheumatoid Arthritis, so I also wanted to communicate my health situation to them in a way that would make them see the complexity of the situation. I hoped to confront them with the reality that people whom you might assume are 100% healthy may have “invisible” diseases (as many autoimmune diseases are).  My secondary objective was just to communicate my passion for the dance in a way that could be easily bottled up and shared again and again, in a way that words just simply can’t do alone. I also wanted to create a video that could be used to inspire those who might have just gotten an RA diagnosis to realize that it might not be as grave as what you read on the internet.

2) The video had a much deeper impact that I had hoped for. Initially, I shared it on facebook as well as youtube, and I received almost 100 comments on facebook alone.  Many comments came from people I didn’t know at all, but who were connected to the dancing community in some way.  Many people congratulated me on sharing my story and capturing some of the essence of why we all dance.  It was also featured on a prominent dancer’s blog during his end of the year review.  I was deeply happy to see that the video was also shared within the arthritis community after I made it, and I actually did show it at a summer camp for kids/families of kids with arthritis in 2010 as well.

Chalk drawing at camp: "I love my sister Aaliyah, she has arthritis"

After seeing the impact of the video in the arthritis community, I made a follow-up video using much of the same media but expanding on the arthritis component. However this has not been as popular on youtube for whatever reason.

3) Since the creation of this video, I have experienced more joint pain in my fingers and toes, which has affected how much I dance and the way I dance…however, I still enjoy the benefits of being part of this tight-knit community, particularly since I moved from Seattle to California in August 2010 to start grad school. I’ve been teaching with a great group called Wednesday Night Hop in Mountain View, which has a vibrant, enthusiastic group of regular dancers/students every Wednesday 🙂 It’s become a great mid-week break during grad school – no matter how much homework I have or studying I need to do, I almost always make it out to the dance.

Pajamma Party!

Pajamma Party!

Dancing pretty much means the same thing to me today as it did a year ago, but I think it meant a little more to me during my transition from Seattle to California, as I had to make a new group of friends in the dance community. I distinctly remember how foreign my first dance at Wednesday Night Hop felt, how strange it felt to walk into a dance hall and not know more than 2 people. I had to ask for about 90% of my dances, which hadn’t happened since I was a newcomer to the Seattle scene 5 years ago.  Today, I really try to remember that feeling when I welcome newcomers to Wednesday Night Hop. As I said in my video, I never would have stuck with dancing had it not been for the support/encouragement of other dancers, so I try to continue to pay it forward today.


About Cheryl Crow

My punctuation mark of preference is, without a doubt, the exclamation point! Join me as I explore the wonderful worlds of: studying Occupational Therapy, gluten-free cooking/baking, swing dancing, photography, and living a full life with Rheumatoid Arthritis. There will be parenthetical tangents, there will be cake, there will be almost unbearable amounts of cuteness, but most of all…there will be enthusiasm. (!)
This entry was posted in Rheumatoid Arthritis, Swing Dance and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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