Iraly Yanez dreamed of becoming a professional dancer. But her dreams seemed shattered eight years ago. She was struck then in the spine by a stray bullet. The young Venezuelan woman was left a paraplegic.
But now, Yanez has found a way to pursue her lifelong passion—even in a wheelchair. She hopes to get her career back on track thanks to a contemporary dance company that helps disabled people perform.
Caracas-based AM Danza studio works with 50 young Venezuelans who are pursuing their passion for dance despite limitations like broken spines, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, and blindness. Yanez joined the group in September of 2018. She had her first performance in her wheelchair in an emotional hour-long show. Thankful for the opportunity, the now-34-year-old woman says, “I can’t allow external issues to affect me any longer.”
During the show, disabled dancers performed alongside fully abled professional dancers. They hoped to demonstrate that art knows no barriers. Dancers with limited mobility in their legs raised crutches in the air in unison. Another dancer hoisted Yanez from her wheelchair, lifting her above her shoulders to perform complex moves together.
Alexander Madriz, AM Danza’s director, says that even those with limitations can use what they do have to express artistic passion. “You have to enjoy your possibilities,” he says. “Not everything has to be the perfect lines and symmetry that you see in contemporary classical dance.”
Disabled people in Venezuela face many challenges already. Public transportation is mostly inaccessible to people in wheelchairs. Ramps on sidewalks and in public buildings are rare. And like everyone else in the economically devastated country, they must cope with shortages of medical care and hyperinflated costs of everything from food to medicine to housing too.
But having something they love to work for and train for gives many, like Yanez, hope. Dance is an outlet for her to celebrate the life she does have. Yanez’ desire to train and perform has been met in the dance company. She says she has come to terms with the accident that changed her life. Though her present looks different than she had ever imagined, Yanez says she looks forward now to more opportunity to perform with the abilities she still has.
Everyone will meet some unexpected challenge or setback in life. Christians learn as they grow in faith to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18)