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Humans of Dance for All Bodies: Janice Laurence

Updated: Feb 13, 2021

Janice Laurence has been an active participant with Dance for All Bodies, attending our Contemporary Brazilian, Ballet, Diaspora, Salsa, Jazz, Tap classes and more. She appreciates the variety of styles offered, the warm welcome from the DfAB community, and the delightful opportunities to grow as a disabled dance artist. She is based in Vancouver, British Columbia, and first heard about Dance for All Bodies through her connections with BORP and AXIS Dance Company member JanpiStar. She loves how similar the name is to the Canadian All Bodies Dance Project (ABDP) she credits with changing the course of her life in September, 2017. Dancing has given her a new sense of purpose and helped her find pleasure in movement while meeting many new people.

Janice has always loved to dance and in 2017 she was thrilled to discover All Bodies Dance Project (ABDP), a contemporary inclusive dance company located on unceded Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil- Waututh), and xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam) territories (Vancouver, BC, Canada).

ABDP’s work “brings together artists with and without disabilities to explore the endless creative possibilities in difference.” The company’s work “straddles labels of community-engaged and professional practice.” They “aim to dismantle assumptions, biases and default notions around contemporary dance, the theatre and the dancing body.”

Janice’s bio with ABDP is at this link.

Janice was born with a degenerative neuromuscular disease called Charcot Marie Tooth (CMT) and continues to find ways to adapt to a life with unpredictable health challenges. “I have learned that disability is my superpower. I am 56 years old and am in great shape for the shape I’m in!” she expressed. Janice is currently an ambulatory wheelchair user, although there have been many times in her life when she was unable to walk. She has had 14 foot and ankle reconstructions, including several complete ankle replacements.

[Image Description: A photo of Janice smiling as she gazes out at the calm blue water of the Fraser River in Vancouver, Canada. She is standing facing her right. Her manual wheelchair is behind her on the paved pathway. Her arms and legs create a wide base as she balances. She is wearing a blue and white outfit that matches her AFO’s. (Ankle Foot Orthoses.) Photo credit Peter Laurence]

Janice fell in love with inclusive community dance while using her power wheelchair and mobility scooter in dance studios. As she gained experience, strength, and confidence, she bought a lightweight manual wheelchair in 2019 in preparation for her first professional role as a performance artist in a play called “Act of Faith” with Realwheels Theatre. The play is inspired in part by a true story of the mysterious recovery of a young Vancouver woman, Faith, who lived with paraplegia for 13 years. “The play explores the mystery and controversy of faith-based healing, and the consequences of a life-changing transformation.” Act of Faith featured a mixed-ability cast that explores wheelchair movement in novel ways.

[Image Description: A photo of Janice posed for a headshot while sitting in her manual wheelchair demonstrating her signature leg kick while lifting the front wheels off the ground. There are no footrests. She wears lilac leggings, a red sleeveless top, and custom made leopard print AFO’s with black orthopedic shoes. Photo credit k. Ho]

Janice’s passion for lifelong learning, transformation, creative arts, performance opportunities, and advocacy for people living with disabilities led her to being a participant in the third season of the multiple award nominated Anaid Productions AMI-tv documentary series called “Mind Set Go”. Each episode describes how Canadians apply a growth mindset to their physical, mental, and emotional health with the help of fitness experts and celebrated Canadian Paralympians.

You can see the Mind Set Go episode where Janice is featured here:

Janice was introduced to her highly knowledgeable personal trainer Megan Williamson, of Ocean Rehab and Fitness, during the TV film shoot. She continues to develop skills for functional fitness and new workout routines that help her grow in confidence and focus on optimal health. You can see her featured on the website here:

In 2020, Janice made a dance solo film with All Bodies Dance Project for the Vines Art Festival. The dance piece is titled “Parts of Me” and features audio descriptions. The event, “Fluidity: Bodies, Sound and Land”, was presented online. Janice expressed, “It describes the love affair I have with some of my ‘dance partners': my manual wheelchair, walker, crutches, and cane. It is quite unique.” You can see this outdoor performance at the 14:44 mark:

[Image Description: A photo of Janice dressed in a sleeveless blue dress with blue and white AFO’s and orthopedic shoes as she dances while sitting in her manual wheelchair. There are no footrests, and her feet are swinging mid air. She is in a forested park setting beside the ocean in Vancouver, Canada. Her face and blue forearm crutches are lifted towards the sky. (Vines Art Festival performance of All Bodies Dance Project’s “Parts of Me”.) Photo credit Harmanie Rose]

Janice explained that the silver lining of the current pandemic is that she was able to make connections with other inclusive dance companies throughout North America and the world. She stated, “I am thriving as a solo disabled dance artist while soaking up the inspiration and joy from the folks I can dance with using Zoom.” She has participated in several solo ensemble film projects with professional choreographers and dancers.

Janice now facilitates inclusive contemporary improv classes online. She has been an educator since 1989, and is currently on disability leave from her position as a public elementary school teacher.

She was recently interviewed on live radio on CBC’s The Early Edition, and this has led to an invitation to teach Movement as Medicine dance classes over Zoom as an ambassador for the Hereditary Neuropathy Foundation.

Households part one: the dance artist, The Early Edition with Stephen Quinn, Live Radio:

Janice's love of dance and movement shines through in her energy in our classes. We appreciate the joy and smiles that she brings to Dance for All Bodies.

[Image Description: A photo of Janice wearing an elegant black evening gown while leaning backward over the railing of her high rise balcony. Her arms point toward the ground and she smiles as she gazes up to the blue sky. Her long blonde hair flows down her back.]

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