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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.

Act of Faith:

[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: