Blog Feature: Sarah Todd Hammer!

January 12, 2018

 

 

 

 

The first time I saw a video of Sarah dancing on Instagram, I knew that I had to reach out to her! Her dancing was not only beautiful to watch, but so emotionally moving I was just left in awe. In addition to dancing she is also a beautiful writer and has published her own book, so I thought it would be perfect to ask her to write a guest post on my blog! 

 

It is with great excitement that I present the guest post Sarah wrote :

 

Inside and outside the dance world, there exists a common misconception that a dancer can only be good if they perform traditional steps, follow specific choreography, and wear their hair in a bun.  I’ve been a dancer since I was three years old, and ‘I’ve learned more dance moves and ballet steps than I could ever count.  I always thought that I would have the lead part in my dance company’s Christmas performance one day and that I would be a professional dancer.  There was no doubt in my mind that dancing would always be a part of who I am.

 

Even after I became paralyzed from the neck-down during a ballet class, I still believed I was a dancer.  To me, nothing could change that: I was an eight-year-old girl lying motionless in a hospital bed, but I was still a dancer.  Transverse Myelitis (TM), a rare, neuro-immunological disorder that damages the spinal cord, had taken away my ability to move, but it had not successfully taken away my spirit.  Even when I was in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, my dance performances were playing on the TV, and dancing consumed my mind.  I told myself that I had to get better in time to audition to be a company member, and when that didn’t happen, I told myself I had to get better in time to perform in my annual recital.  When I missed my dance recital, my next goal became to simply dance again.

 

From the moment I stood on my tiptoes in physical therapy, I knew I would be able to dance again.  By this time, I’d been discharged from the hospital, and right when I arrived home from therapy, I turned on my performance of Cinderella and picked a dance to try.  I had gone from dancing every day to not dancing in over two months, so it only made sense that a humongous smile took over my face.  The first dance I did after getting TM was very short, but I gradually worked up to longer dances.  Most of me was elated that I could dance again, but as I continued, I found myself growing frustrated with certain dance moves—I wasn’t able to do many of them like I had before.  Because I realized I couldn’t dance exactly like I could before, I began altering the choreography in the dances I already knew in order to make them suitable for me.  I figured: why should I worry about looking “normal” when I dance when I could embrace my own unique style?

Choreography has become a new passion of mine, one that I never would’ve discovered if I hadn’t told myself it was all right to be unique.  Choreographing my own dances has become more important to me than I ever thought it would.  It’s crucial to me that I can show everyone that I’m still a dancer even though I have a disability.   

There are no rules when it comes to dancing; you can wear your hair in any style, dance in shorts and a t-shirt or tights and a tutu.  But most importantly, you can be whoever you want to be when you dance.  I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter that I can’t lift my arms into an arabesque or fifth position—what matters is how I express myself when I dance.  My choreography allows me to tell stories through movements rather than words while feeling comfortable in my own skin.  There are not many dancers in the world who are like me (in fact, I might be the only one!), and I’m proud to be able to share my experiences with others through my dances.  

 

If you’re interested in my dances and choreography, you can view my choreographed dances on my website, www.5kballet.com or my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/SarahToddHammer 

 

 

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