SPORTS, FITNESS & DANCE

DANCING WITH THE STARS

Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)

Vincenzo Piscopo

For Venezuelan Dads, dancing with their daughters at their quinceañera party is a big deal

When I got hurt almost 6 years, after realizing I would never walk again, there was a thought that haunted me every night before the drugs would knock me down in a deep sleep. The thought that haunted me was not about being able to provide for my family or work or anything like that. At the end I knew that everything would be all right. The thought that haunted me was rather how I was going to dance with my daughters at their quinceañera parties? And how was I going to walk them down the aisle. You see, for Venezuelan Dads, dancing with their daughters at their quinceañera party is a big deal. As a Dad it is something that I have dreamed of all my life. The good news at that time, was that my older daughter was only ten and my twin daughters were only 5. This meant that there was time for the awaited cure to arrive and give me back my ability to walk so that I could happily dance with my daughters. Unfortunately, the cure never came. As the birthdate approached, my anxiety grew. When it was inevitable, I came to the realization that at the end what really mattered was that I was the first man my daughter danced with upon turning 15, regardless of whether I danced on my feet or on my wheels. That is the way I convinced myself that it would be OK.

As I saw my beautiful girl come towards me, walked by my handsome son, I completely forgot that I was on wheels

The day came and OH MY GOD! As I saw my beautiful girl come towards me, walked by my handsome son, I completely forgot that I was on wheels. The pride, the happiness and the love invaded my heart in a way that the wheels became completely irrelevant. My son escorted my daughter to me and she started floating in my arms. I forgot what we rehearsed, I forgot that I was surrounded by 200 people, I was immersed in the most amazing feeling of happiness that anybody could imagine. The fact that I was so lucky to be her dad and that among the millions of men in this world, I was the one who was dancing with her at her quinceañera was more than enough to make me the happiest man on the planet. The rush of that moment was so big that it lasted all night and lingered in my heart for days afterward.

The chair was completely transparent to them

Now dancing is something natural. The wheels don’t matter. It is about the feeling. It is about moving to the beat of the music. I was so convinced of that until my daughter (who is a real dancer) let us know that parents were invited to also bring a dance number to compete in this big dance competition. In my head I told myself NO WAY!!! I am not doing that. Then again, the voice of my three daughters asking me to do it melted my heart. The chair was completely transparent to them. They just wanted their parents to be in the parents dance number the same as all the other parents. So I said YES. Let’s do it. We rehearsed for 6 weeks. A couple of days before the actual competition we had to rehearse in front of the Dance Company kids. I felt as nervous as I felt when I had my first job interview. I was going to dance in front of 50+ amazing dancers. I did not want to embarrass my daughters. What a pressure! We did it. As we (the parents) were dancing, all the kids started cheering and screaming. I felt like a STAR. As I was dancing, the smile in my daughters faces fueled my energy, I really felt like a hip hopper. I was actually looking forward to the big day. The big day came. We performed in front of probably 500 people. I knew my three daughters were watching us. The energy of the room erased my wheels from my mind. I was dancing. I was dancing with the stars. It was so much fun that the 4-minute dance felt like a 4-second dance…. When everyone gave us a standing ovation, I was like WHAT? Is it over? Can we dance again? My wheels did not matter. What really mattered was that I felt the energy, I enjoyed the 4 minutes and the journey and most importantly that my daughter’s dad was there with all the other dads and moms making them proud. I can’t wait to experience these feelings again. I can’t wait for the next dance competition. I can’t wait for my twin daughter’s quinceaneras.

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