During a college dance class, Marisa Hamamoto suffered a rare stroke that left her temporarily paralyzed.
In 2006, while a senior at Keio University in Japan, Marisa Hamamoto suddenly became paralyzed from the neck down during a contemporary dance class. The next day, she was diagnosed with a spinal cord infarction, a rare form of stroke.
Though she regained mobility and was able to leave the hospital after two months, the experience changed her. She dove right back into dance and fell in love with ballroom dancing. But after returning to her home state of California in 2012, she began wondering what her life as a dancer would have been like if she hadn't regained the use of her legs.
Realizing that there were countless people without the use of their legs or other limbs who find themselves shut out of the dance world, Hamamoto set out on a mission to break down those walls.
Hamamoto has made it her life's work to bring out the dancer in every person, regardless of physical disability.
In 2014, Hamamoto discovered wheelchair dancing, but quickly realized that the dance form was highly underdeveloped. So she decided to fill the gap.
With a belief that everyone has a dancer inside of them, Hamamoto founded a professional wheelchair dance troupe, now known as "Infinite Flow — an Inclusive Dance Company." She says she focused on the words INCLUSION, BREAKING BARRIERS, BEAUTY, and INNOVATION as the foundation for her work.
Those four ideas shine through in every performance from Infinite Flow. Watching videos of their performances, it's hard not to be wowed by what you're seeing. Check out this stunning performance of Sara Bareilles' "Gravity" and tell me it doesn't give you chills:
Sara Bareilles "Gravity" Performed by Marisa Hamamoto & Piotr Iwanicki
Please Share! A Special Valentines Day Gift to YOU from Infinite Flow - An Inclusive Dance Company. We use dance as a vehicle to empower people and eliminate the stigma associated with disability. We challenge our artists to erase the line between "disability" and "non-disability" and strive for innovation. Thank you for following our journey, and hope this video gives you some inspiration for the day. For Booking Requests please contact marisa@InfiniteFlowDance.org - Artists - Music: Sara Bareilles "Gravity" Dancers: Marisa Hamamoto (Founder & Artistic Director, Infinite Flow)Piotr Iwanicki (Guest Artist, Infinite Flow)Choreographer: Gary FrancoVideo: Kenzo K. LePosted by Infinite Flow - An Inclusive Dance Company on Wednesday, February 14, 2018
Hamamoto sees Infinite Flow not just as a dance company, but as a social movement.
The vision driving Infinite Flow's work is simple: "A global community where everyone celebrates each other’s differences." However, what's simple on paper can be complicated in real life. People with disabilities face daily challenges from society, from access to stigma associated with their conditions.
From the beginning, Hamamoto's mission has been "to use dance as a vehicle to mainstream inclusion and eliminate the stigma behind disability." Even the language used in the studio reflects this commitment. Dancing with a wheelchair is like speaking a different language, so instead of words like "adapt" or "modify" when choreographing a routine or learning dance moves, they use the word "translate."
Infinite Flow is making waves both in the dance world and in society at large. Hamamoto has now taught more than 200 wheelchair dancers, her troupe has performed at more than 70 events, and they're showing know signs of slowing down. "There are over one billion people in the world with a disability who have little access to dance," Hamamoto told Good Morning America. "I think it's my destiny to do something about it."