Smashing Stereotypes with Tempo and Wow
The Culture Dish – With Masha Savitz
Infinite Flow has all the passion you would expect from a dance company, while pushing the boundaries of physicality and creativity. What sets these dancers apart from most others, however, is that many of the dancers are in wheel chairs.
Infinite Flow is a professional dance troupe, comprised of talented “differently-abled” dancers and dance influencers whose performances may include a wheelchair ballroom dance duo, a differently-abled hip hop dance crew, or an ASL interpretive dance work with deaf and hearing performers. But, all are breaking stereotypes and redefining dance in order to challenge perceptions and inspire inclusivity.
Founded in 2015 by Marisa Hamamoto, dance artist and stroke survivor, with the belief that “diversity and inclusion yields creativity and drives innovation,” as stated on their website.
The word ‘inclusive’ seems a buzzword these days. What does it really mean, and why is it important?
According to Infinite Flow dancer Mia Schaikewitz, who said in an interview in Santa Monica, “Inclusivity is making sure nobody is treated like an outsider in any situation. When our society is practicing inclusion we are accepting everyone as a human being despite what makes us look different on the outside.”
Schaikewitz, an American TV personality and spokesperson for disability advocacy, had become paralyzed from the waist down following a rupture in her spinal cord at the age of 15. But, as a promising athlete on her high school swim team, she had always enjoyed being active.
It seems that her athletic nature, creative spirit and the desire to be a voice for inclusion, found a perfect expression with Infinite Flow. She began performing with the revolutionary dance company after meeting Hamamoto at the Media Access Awards in 2014.
“As a dancer with Infinite Flow I have the freedom to express myself and to be innovative in dance, which is a constant reminder that there are only limitations in the mind,” says Schaikewitz, “I believe the audiences come away with the realization that no matter what challenge you have, you can overcome it and find a way to do what you love.”
Why is inclusivity so important to Schaikewitz?
“It is important to me for people to feel represented in humanity. I feel a lot of the pain, anxiety, and depression that people’s experience comes from feeling lonely, misunderstood, or excluded from society. I think being inclusive can heal the world, making it a happier and safer place for everyone.”
“Most people think having a disability means being limited in what you are able to do. I believe disability really means “different ability”. When you have a desire to do something you can find a way, even if means doing it differently from the standard way of doing it. Disability is really just a colloquial term we have used to describe people who have different ways of doing things, it’s not that they are incapable of doing what they love. There isn’t anything I can’t do, I just find a different way of doing it which is why I never feel truly limited or disabled.”
Schaikewitz seems to live a more fully, active and engaged life than most. In addition to dancing, this married woman skis, kayaks, has a successful career as a graphic artist, and has appeared on shows like Ellen and The View. She also stared in the reality TV show Push Girls, yet another platform to educate viewers whilst endearing them to her warmth, beauty, and sincerity.
“Being a part of Push Girls gave me hope that wheelchair users can, and will, be more represented in the entertainment world, which helps to break negative stereotypes. I learned from the success of the show, people in society are ready to open up their minds and let go of preconceived notions. They relate to the show because it’s not about the wheelchairs, it’s about the people who happen to use them. Audiences are able to relate to us as human beings, because the only difference we have is that we use wheels move instead of feet.”
With a message that the only real limits are in one’s mind and that we ought not be defined by our challenges, but by our character, it is no wonder that Videos of Mia Schaikewitz and Infinite Flow have been viewed by millions of people on YouTube and other social media sites, a message we all need to remember.
“My goals revolve around breaking down barriers and fears around disability. As I continue to take many actions around this, I also hope for more chances to make an impact via the mass media to reach even more audiences.”
The Infinite flow website asks that all communication with the company be in ‘Peoples first language,’ a set of recommendations or standards that help change perception and stereotypes based on language. Perhaps this is a good place to start practicing inclusion, by fostering a sense of dignity and respect to all member of our community.
Visit Infinite Flow’s website: http://www.infiniteflowdance.org/home