Mary Free Bed’s ‘Miracles in Motion’ Captured the Beauty of Inclusive Dance

by Bridget Conrad | 11/15/2018 1:53 AM

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Every year, we celebrate National Rehabilitation Week in the month of September. This is a week that honors therapists and therapy assistants who all work together to make a difference in the lives of others. This year, Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan celebrated the week by filming an inclusive dance video called “Miracles in Motion.” The video featured Mary Free Bed employees paired with former patients and campers from the Junior Wheelchair Sports Camp. The “Miracles in Motion” creative team hoped that this video would be a highly shareable one used for annual observance, but they didn’t imagine that people would still be talking about it two months later.

“Miracles in Motion” was the first inclusive dance video created by a rehabilitation hospital, and it was created in-house to showcase hope and rehabilitee- the intersection of rehabilitation and ability. The dancers featured in this video are young and old alike, and they all showcased their varying dance abilities. Employees were invited to participate based on availability and dance experience, but none of the patients who were featured in the video had any previous dance experience.

When it came to the video’s choreography, Mary Free Bed staff found California-based choreographer Marisa Hamamoto and asked her to be a part of the project. This cause was especially close to Hamamoto’s heart because she discovered ballroom dancing while recovering from a rare spinal cord stroke that left her paralyzed from the neck down. In 2015, she founded Infinite Flow, an inclusive dance company, to use dance as a tool to empower people with disabilities. “There are over one billion people in the world with a disability who have little access to dance. I think it’s my destiny to do something about it,” Hamamoto said. As someone who completely understood how to work with the patients, Hamamoto was able to make this experience enjoyable for everyone involved. 

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“I was pretty nervous at first. I haven’t really danced a lot before. I was unaware of what to expect, but Marisa made it very easy and it was fun,” said former Mary Free Bed patient Eric Westover. Westover was the victim of a motorcycle accident and broke all four of his limbs. His right leg was amputated above the knee, and his left leg below the knee. He has since completed inpatient and outpatient therapy at Mary Free Bed and now mentors other patients.

Dr. Sam Ho, medical director of the Spinal Cord Injury Program at Mary Free Bed, also participated in the video and he enjoyed the experience so much that he enrolled in ballroom dance classes with his wife! “You work hard enough, you will get to where you want to get to. So everyday we are interacting with patients, hopefully people will be inspired to try harder because every day is meaningful,” said Dr. Ho. This sentiment doesn’t only exist within the Mary Free Bed staff, but also with the patients whose lives Mary Free Bed has touched. 

“People think because I’m in a wheelchair I am not able to do things able body people can do, but anybody would get worn out doing this and we are doing it and we made it look amazing,” commented 13-year-old video participant Mackenzie Haag. Haag is a longtime camper at Mary Free Bed’s Junior Wheelchair Sports Camp and she was so invested in “Miracles in Motion” that she missed her first day of 8th grade to attend rehearsals. Haag, along with her father and brother, live with familial spastic paraplegia.

All in all, “Miracles in Motion” has had more than 90,000 total shares on Facebook and YouTube and was featured on Good Morning America, in addition to many news stations. This is not Mary Free Bed’s first venture into visual storytelling though. It has published 39 videos on its Facebook page in the past year.

Mary Free Bed is a 167-bed acute care inpatient rehabilitation hospital for children and adults who have experienced a brain injury, spinal cord injury, stroke, amputation, or other injury or illness requiring physical therapy. Located in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the not-for-profit hospital offers both inpatient and outpatient therapy. Patients from throughout the Midwest and beyond come to recover and function through Mary Free Bed’s rehabilitation programs. Learn more at .

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