“Come on girls,” says Ms Jaiyana, “We should get moving. Our show is only three weeks away.”
I carefully steer my chair into place, as another dancer, Zintle, follows me. “Bree,” she says, “aren’t you worried about this?”
I shrug, as best as my tight body will allow. “If Ms Jaiyana says we are ready, then why not?” I say. The words come out indistinct, because it’s difficult for me to clearly say my words.
“Yeah,” she says, “I guess so. But I can’t decide what will be worse: if nobody shows up or if everybody shows up.”
“I’ve been trying not to think about it, to be honest. Been focusing on learning the dances, and going with my ma to buy items for our outfits. It’s easier that way.”
“Oh, I hear you,” Zintle says. “And if I hear one more person say, ‘You’re such an inspiration,’ I might have to kick them in the face.”
“Girls,” says Ms Jaiyana, “I’m not going to ask again.”
This time Zintle takes position, along with the rest of us.
Ms Jaiyana starts the music and we all slowly begin to warm up.
“Okay girls,” our teacher says, reaching up high, “give me your best, and don’t forget, listen to the beat.”
I tell my body: move. Because I know what a beat is, and I know how I am supposed to move to it. But, not only is my body too stiff from the cerebral palsy, it sometimes starts jerking and spasming without my permission. CP is a motor disability, and the particular symptoms differ from person to person. For me, it’s like there is somebody in heaven with a gaming console set to my body, pulling me this way and that, without asking me. So! Annoying!
“Doing good, Bree,” Ms Jaiyana says, making me smile.
Ms Jaiyana designed this dance class because everyone in this group needs to move and exercise as best we can, within our own limits, including herself. But people like us, with chronic conditions and disabilities, don’t make the mainstream schools’ sports teams. And a lot of physical activities outside of school are expensive. Our bodies already cost a lot of money to maintain, so who has extra to do fancy things?
“Needing you with me, girls,” Ms Jaiyana says, “as some of you are going to practise your lock and pops.”
I do not ‘lock and pop’. But since this is only warm up, I give it a go, even though I won’t be doing it on stage.
Ms Jaiyana focuses on those who will, and corrects them as needed. But she doesn’t ignore the rest of us, even me.
“Bree, you did that one well.”
Ms Jaiyana is such a liar. But it makes me feel good, anyway. She is one of the few adults who talks to me like I’m 16, instead of three. Too many adult Ables think my twisted body and my indistinct voice mean I’m stupid. (Yes, around 45% of people with CP do have cognitive impairments, I know. But even if I did have an intellectual disability, treating a teen or an adult like they’re a toddler is just rude!)
For the record, I get top marks. I have a 90% average. My body is not a sign of my intelligence.
Tell us: Do you like to dance? Why or why not?