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I thought dancers had to have two arms and two legs - story by Kat Hawkins

Updated: May 26, 2020

A beautiful story about inclusion and access in the dance world.

Kat was just a first-year into college life when she was struck suddenly by Meningitis B. A horrific and common disease college students are exposed to. Scared and confused Kat had to go into the hospital for immediate teatment. Her body was fighting for her life. Her organs were failing and her immune system became an enemy.

Kat found herself at age 19 on dialysis with kidney failure and with the horrible news that due to sepsis in her legs, the doctors needed to remove them both.

"Were going to have to amputate your leg." Those dreaded words are anyone's nightmare and for a dancer, they are heartbreaking agony. Kat dove into a pit of despair where her love of dancing was dead.

Months after being in the hospital fighting for her life and having her legs removed, Kat was back at college doing her best to adjust to her new way of life and being in the world. She was now someone different, she had gone through something traumatic that would forever put her in a place apart from her peers and a typical lifestyle. She would have to adjust and find her way. She did her best to pretend it had never happened, that she was like everyone else. Sadly, dance would not be part of her healing for a while to come. "Many people use dance as a form of healing. But for years after my legs were amputated, dance became a part of my trauma."

Kat finally came back to dance 7 years after her amputation. She was auditioning for Candoco Dance Company for the first time. She was terrified. Dancing was painful and she was wrought with emotion. This was a huge stretch for her. "I learnt about fear - the fear of being in my body and of showing it to others.” It was during this time that Kat realized that dance is not just for a typical population. She learned the beautiful understanding that dance is for everyone. "Being in those spaces changed everything I had ever thought about what dance was and who it was for - and since then I have deconstructed everything I thought I knew about the art form.

Dance is for everyone, it’s only the way it is traditionally taught that makes us think it’s not. I didn’t know how to even think about dancing as an amputee, because I had never seen any dancers that looked like me."

Kat is now a dancer for change. She is an advocate for equality. She understands the importance and power of access and support in the arts. Access, whether it is to be a part of the arts of wanting to experience the arts as a spectator.

Kat's poignant story is one of grief and grace. It is a story about all of us and how we have the ability to bring compassion into our society, and how that can bring us closer to what is real. And that is, no matter who we are, where we come from our difference in abilities or talents, we all deserve to have the privilege to access. Access to all that life has to offer, access to our dreams realized, access to dance, play a sport, see the world, be a part of society and access to THRIVE!

Once we truly embrace this truth, we all will feel and understand the beauty and freedom access gives to all living beings.

Link to the full story here

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