Grace Barnes on the challenges of dancing with scoliosis. Casual Fridays Episode 10

Grace Barnes on the challenges of dancing with scoliosis. Casual Fridays Episode 10


Yo, this is Casual Fridays with 2J Harmonix. Today we will be talking to Grace Barnes also known as Grace Storm. Singer, dancer, poet, Wits student, actress, All of the above! All the above! Ja, Hi Grace. Hello, thanks for having me here. Grace, what I want to ask, people might not know about this, you told me a while back that you have non progressive scoliosis. Okay, the way I know scoliosis, the same with my back, it’s like progressively your body changes. But with you it is non progressive. How is it non progressive? I went through physical shock which is the result of shifting my spine. So I only just have a slight curve in my lumbar section of my spine. Therefore it is not really getting worse, I mean it could, if I was not taking care of it, but at this point it’s stable. So, when I was diagnosed, at the time I was playing rugby, which is my favorite sport, and I was advised to stop playing, I was also advised to stop dancing and to stop basically every physical activity that possibly could put strain on my back. As a result I did not listen to them, I still continued with my passion for dancing. And now it is your major at university. It is. It is my major at university. I don’t regret continuing with it. It was a tough road to take and very challenging but I’m in my fourth and final year of it and I am still happy. It’s an ongoing process. It’s still difficult. As a result I get injured a lot because my body is off proportion so, like my hips are not in proportion, so I have had two hip flexer injuries I dislocated both my ankles, so as a result I’m injured a lot, but I think I’m also just… It takes courage in terms of training, so you have to be disciplined with continuously strengthening my back specifically so that I can be able to carry the rest of my body during performances and such. The dance that you do, how would it fit in a career that you choose in South Africa I’m majoring in physical theatre or what’s known as dance theatre and I’m also doing drama therapy which is very closely linked to movement therapy and it is a career choice in terms of going into being a drama therapist or a movement therapist where you assist clients, if I can put it that way, who are dealing with traumatic experiences or have gone through life issues, and I think it’s just an alternative way of expressing those emotions and dealing with them, apart from having to talk with a therapist, because me, personally, I don’t like to talk about my issues. and for me, dance is my safe space of really discovering myself and dealing with issues I’ve been through. Even dealing with my disability which I don’t like to call it that, but just dealing with that and how it actually build my courage into continuing with what I’m doing. So career wise I’m also interested in choreography and telling stories through bodies, through movement. I really believe that movement and words, you know, put together is a very strong thing and I think, for me, choreographing pieces that speak back to this idea of a disability or functions of what stops you as a human being and how do you break past that, how do you push through society’s notion of saying: You can’t do this so I just want really put out a message or stories of encouragement and really just pushing people out there. It’s really powerful how movement can really tell stories without words and for me that’s really the basis. Also, you know, like it says when words fail, music speaks, but I also believe that, when words fail, the movement speaks, the body speaks as well. And a lot of people can relate to it, because we have a physical body. But, with that, there’s an emotional attachment to it. So being able to tell stories through movement and having it relate to someone on an emotional level or mental level is really something else for me. What would you say is the difference between an able bodied dancer and a disabled dancer, because, when we saw you dancing, I did not notice any impairment. It’s a very good question. A lot of people don’t know about my condition and I try not to put it out there. But I think, I always say that a physical disability only goes as far as your mental disability and for me, the reason why I continue with dancing is I didn’t want to listen to the no, of what everyone was saying, “you can’t do this, you can’t do this”. And I think the challenges in that is, I also have to know my limits, as my body, because nobody really understands the constraints it take and how much pain I go through. So, I will sometimes go through a whole routine just like everybody else but I will suffer the consequences of the back pains or my hip being hurt. And I think it is just an issue of a personal matter of me knowing what my limits are and if I am willing to succeed those limits, do I want to go beyond that , you know, and I think the difference in that context, if you could see me next to someone else, I try not to be different in showing that, look, this is my problem. So I think comes with training, it definitely comes with training and a lot of hard work for me to get to that point of being able to move like anybody else, it’s just the constraints and the suffering afterwards is what nobody gets to see. But it’s also dedication and commitment to, you know what you doing in general that makes it seem like I am fine. You are busy with something for your honors? For your final exam? For my final exam for physical theatre I’m focusing on the body. So my body as a source of departure or point of departure for my concept. And I was really just concerned with society’s perceptions on how a a body should be. Not just specifically a dancer’s body, but people would look at me and I’d say that I am a dancer and they say you don’t look like a dancer and I am saying what is a dancer suppose to look like? And for me, I say, if you can walk you can dance. You may be terrible at it, but you can still move. And for me, that really bothered me for a while, the perception that people have on somebody else’s body and how someone is supposed to look, even in general, in general society even if you’re not a dancer . And how that impacts you as a person, because then you start having a personal view of yourself and for a long time, I for myself, accepting my body as this is my body as a dancer’s body took a very long time and it’s still in process. But just standing up to the notion of I don’t have to be a certain way to fit somebody else’s view and if you are happy with where you are and it’s getting you to where you want to be then there is no reason to chance. So I’m really focusing on the notion of pushing past the no and how far would you go to get a yes? And if you don’t get a yes, do you still keep going on. So that’s what I’ve been focusing on for my honors. If you could change anything in the world, anything in a split second, what would it be? On the top of my head it would be society’s judgement on each other. And I think not just from a point of being a disabled body but in general I think self is very important for me and I think if everybody could just look to themselves first before looking at another person in a certain way. I would definitely change the concept that people have, that they have the right to an opinion on somebody else’s life or the way they live or their disability or whatever it may be. So that’s what I would change, right now, in a slit second, ja. Thank you Grace for the interview. Anything you’d like to say, final words? Thank you for having me. It’s been quite an experience talking about it, so thank you very much. Thank you Grace. We’ll see you next week for Casual Fridays.

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