Dance Related During School

My So You Think You Can Dance Canada Article

Hey everyone! It has definitely been awhile since my last post. I returned to school a few days after the last post on here and I’ve been crazy busy ever since. I wrote for the school paper very briefly – the first two weeks/issues, then I stopped because school assignments started picking up and my fansite (http://markkanemura-online.org) started taking up a lot of my extra time! (still does).

I am back to post the latest article I wrote. It was the second assignment for my Reporting III class. It’s written in an ‘hourglass’ format and I’m actaully really happy with how it turned out.

It’s a story about two girls who auditioned for So You Think You Can Dance Canada and just a story about their story. I had SO much fun talking to them – Lindsay Eales & Harmanie Shairp – it was one of the best interviews I’d ever done. Really comfortable, really interesting, and we were all American SYTYCD fans so we started off the conversation and ended the conversation just talking about the season that had just ended and who our favourite dancers were and it was just a really, really great experience. I’ve made new friends out of it and I’m just so excited to tell their story! (This article is going to be printed in our program’s newspaper)

This is their audition clip followed by the story I wrote. We’ll see how well it gets graded…

A local pair of inspirational dancers brought out tears and applause from judges and the audience during the Calgary auditions for So You Think You Can Dance Canada last month.

A current University of Alberta student, Lindsay Eales, and a Grant MacEwan College graduate, Harmanie Shairp, travelled three hours to audition for the dance reality show So You Think You Can Dance Canada (SYTYCD) back in May, but they weren’t auditioning to get to the final rounds of the show—instead, they had a bigger, different goal in mind.

Shairp has the most severe form of spina bifida, a birth defect where spinal nerves are damaged and paralysis in the legs occur, causing her to rely on a wheelchair in order to get around.

In short, Shairp can’t walk. But, she can dance.

“If you have a heartbeat, you have a rhythm, and if you have a rhythm, you can dance,” Shairp had said during her audition. “I want to challenge each and every body individually to challenge [themselves] to dance with somebody who [they] don’t think is maybe perfect in a dancer way – just give them a chance.”

“[We auditioned] because we hoped that we could challenge dancers in their ideas of what a dancer looks like, what a dancer moves like, what it means to be dancing, and [break] down barriers for people with [or] without disabilities,” Eales said. “I had said to the audience, ‘All of you dancers here, if you could go home to your dance studios and open up one class at each studio for people with disabilities, we could totally change dance [and] change the people who have access to dance.’”

The pair didn’t make it to the next round of the show, but they said they found the success they were looking for anyways, after one of the judges, Tre Armstrong, told the two that she was so inspired by what they did and what they had to say, that she was going to go home to her studio and start “integrated dancing” there.

Shairp began “integrated dancing” in her wheelchair in September 2006, when she first met Eales.

Eales, who had been dancing since she was ten years old, decided to do an independent study in dance on ability and disability back in 2006.

She recruited five volunteer dancers from the University of Alberta’s Orchesis dance group, then found Shairp and another wheelchair user who was interested in dance, through the U of A’s Steadward Centre, a centre for physical activity for people with disabilities.

“We went through a process where there was a lot of talking, bonding, dancing, and building a really safe environment for people to explore and push their personal boundaries,” Eales said. “Over time we came to a fabulous piece and the way it changed people’s perceptions about ability and disability and what they think people can and can’t do and even their idea of what a disability is, was astounding.”

Eales, Shairp, and their dance group performed their piece at Orchesis’s dance concert in January 2007.

Ever since their performance in 2007, Eales and Shairp have been trying to promote integrated dancing, wheelchair dancing, and dancing with any kind of disability.

Shairp said that when she was in the first grade, she had wanted to learn how to dance like a ballerina, but her mother had told her they couldn’t afford dance classes.

“What actually happened was the dance teacher told my mom that I would hold everyone back [because of my disability], so she wouldn’t teach me,” Shairp said.

She says dancing with Eales and learning how to dance in a wheelchair changed her life and she hopes that by spreading the message that people in wheelchairs can dance and be danced with, what happened to her as a child won’t happen to anyone else in the future.

“The ultimate idea is that there is some little girl in some town that is going to be able to take that ballet class because her teacher isn’t afraid to include her,” said Eales.

“And she’s not afraid to ask to be included,” Shairp added.

Since auditioning for SYTYCD, the two have received a lot of attention from newspapers and TV stations, as well as being offered opportunities to dance and talk about integrated dancing at different dance showcases.

Eventually, Eales said, the pair wants to see integrated dancing become a normal, natural, everyday occurrence.

Eales and Shairp are performing for Orchesis’s 2009 concert Jan. 23 and 24.

Lindsay Eales & Harmanie Shairp. Photo by Linda Hoang. Oct.1.2008.
Lindsay Eales & Harmanie Shairp. Photo by Linda Hoang. Oct.1.2008

There’s so many wonderful things that they told me that I wish I could have just written it all in the article though. It’s really great what they are doing and what they’ve done so far and I really believe that they’re going to change dance – and that their audition has already put the change in motion.

As I said, I am really happy with how it turned out and I hope my Reporting III professor (who is brand new this year and he’s been great so far!) likes reading it as much as I liked writing it.

Hopefully I post a blog again sometime soon,

Linda

Linda Hoang is an Edmonton blogger who writes about food, travel, lifestyle/events and pets. She's also a social media/digital specialist with a journalism background. Linda is in love with her city and loves exploring and promoting Edmonton and other places she visits with her husband Mike. Linda is also the founder of the Edmonton International Cat Festival (and has 2 cats herself, along with 2 dogs).

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2 Comments

  • Julianna

    I am so glad that I found your article. It brought back the joy I felt when I first saw Harmanie and Lindsay dance on the SYTYCDC auditions.

    Joy might sound like an odd word to use but they set out to send a message, and I believe I was meant to hear that message.

    My father had a serious, debilitating stroke over 7 years ago… I was 23. I was single and living at home. I stayed living at home to help my parents out for at least 5 more years. My father used to be a dancer. He taught Ukrainian Dancing and that’s how he met my mother. They used to love to waltz, jive and polka together at weddings, socials and parties. One of my most fond memories was when he taught me to waltz when I was 9 and I loved dancing with him as he was a strong leader and had amazing musicality. Seeing him in a wheelchair really didn’t affect me until my friends started getting married.

    The first time I was at a wedding after my dad’s stroke I realized how much I missed dancing with my dad. Sitting and watching bride after bride dance with her father for the last 7 years at each wedding I had attended stung more and more. I thought about how I would get married and though my father could be there, he couldn’t dance with me.

    Then I saw these two women take the stage. That feeling came back. The same lump was in my throat and the same tears fell from my eyes… only this time I was filled with hope. These women filled my heart with so much hope, I realize that I can still dance with my father. It may not be the typical father/daughter dance, but we are not the typical father and daughter.

    I hope that you can please forward my grattitude to these women for me. I want them to know that they touched me in a way that they will never know. They gave me so much hope and filled me with so much joy and I don’t think they realize how important that message actually was that they had sent.

    Last but not least you, my friend, you are helping spread their message through your medium, and for that I thank you. I thank you for writing your article, and putting it on the internet, and mostly helping bring these women closer to me.

    Please pass on my email address to them. I would like to somehow contact these women and I hope that you can help. I would like to maybe get their ideas on how I can dance with my father, and still make him look like the proud father of the bride.

    Thank you in advance.

    Yours in faith
    Julianna

  • ayoungreporter

    Thank you for your post Julianna! I’m really, really glad my article and my posting it on here, could help you.

    I’m going to be forwarding them your message and your email address :)

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