Laura and MS: Opening doors with dance on Disabled Access Day

Laura Dajao is a freelance integrated dance artist who has MS. 

Recently she worked with established dancer, choreographer and b-boy Mickael Marso Riviere on Adaption, a short film commissioned by People Dancing. Adaption is part of a series of six films that focus on dance by, with and for deaf and disabled people. 

We caught up with Laura to talk to her about her experience of MS and how dance has changed her life. This is her story.

Weird things happen pre-diagnosis

It was a difficult time in the run up to my diagnosis. I was experiencing these really weird things. My right leg started to drag, I had internal plumbing issues and wasn't able to walk for very long at all. On top of that I had exams, the end of college and starting university to deal with.

My last year in college wasn't my finest, as I missed a lot because I couldn't travel. Personal relationships and overwhelming emotions seemed to get the better of me. However I didn't tell anyone about them. When I left I only managed to do two weeks of commuting to Winchester University every day before my body couldn't take it anymore.

Overwhelming emotions

It's a scary time when you self diagnose via the Internet and think the worst, but my parents helped me get professional advice. Seeing the very obvious signs of MS (according to the doctor) when we looked at the MRI scans was an emotional experience.

I remember being fine with it and looking over to my mother who was in tears. Which then set me off! Listening to the things that I couldn't do, and the possibilities of what was to come, was all too overwhelming for all of us at the time. It was a big change to all of our lives.

Why not dance?

I had made the decision to use a wheelchair to become more independent as I could only walk a couple of steps at a time. It was then I auditioned for East London Dance's Youth company which opened up so many doors. I hadn't danced in the wheelchair before and though, "why not give it a go?" 

The whole team at East London Dance were amazing with only love and support to help me on my journey as a dancer. Cindy Claes was artistic director then with Nas Evanson and between them both they taught a mixture of Hip Hop, Street Dance, Krump, Dancehall Theatre and African dance styles.

Lock for life

I like to dabble in different styles and am keen to learn new things when I can and try new styles to see how I can adapt them to my body. For instance, House is a really cool social dance style but can involve a lot of footwork. For me the "Jack" is the thing I pick up on - the key movement of house which involves the torso which keeping the rhythm up and down in time with the music.

In recent times, I've been more of a Locking enthusiast which is a lot of funky upper body arm movement.

 

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Learning what my body can do enriches me

Contemporary dance is something that links everything together for me. The knowledge you gain and the understanding of what your body can do then enforces and enriches, certainly my movement in dance. I am constantly learning with Stopgap Dance and Sardines Dance collective.

Opening doors

Dance has opened doors for Laura, but not everyone is able to access classes, transport or services they need. That's why we support projects like Adaption and promote Disabled Access Day. We also fund grants to help people with day to day adaptions and short breaks.

We need your support to keep on making a difference. Together, we're strong enough to stop MS.

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