She’s a wheel class act and dancer

2014-08-21 00:00

AS a child, Michelle Rosewall performed in a ballet at Durban’s Playhouse. Next month she returns to the same stage to dance again — in a wheelchair.

Rosewall (37) has been dancing since the age of four, but in 1996, aged 19, just two weeks into her first job, a car accident looked to have ended any hope of dancing again.

“I can’t remember what happened,” said Rosewall. “I went out the back window and broke a whole lot of bones and my spinal cord was crushed.”

The two other passengers escaped unscathed, while the driver sustained whiplash injuries.

Rosewall emerged from hospital six months later in a wheelchair. Initially she couldn’t face going back to work and made crafts from her home in Glenwood “and did some typing to earn money”.

She has long since returned to full-time employment and now works in customer service at Smith and Nephew in Westville.

But all the time Rosewall dreamt of dancing again.

“I knew there was disabled dancing in Cape Town and Johannesburg but I couldn’t find anything in Durban.”

Then she heard about Dance Basics in Glenwood that offers classes for people with a variety of disabilities.

Rosewall signed up two years ago and last year danced with abled partner Menzie Khanyase in Shall We Dance?, the annual showcase mounted by the Dance Teachers’ Association of South Africa at the Playhouse.

“It’s very challenging dancing with Michelle,” said Khanyase, who also dances with an abled partner. “I have to be very cautious … and make sure I don’t pull her out of her chair.”

Rosewall happily admits to knocking Khanyase’s shins a few times, while he acknowledges he has “bumped her down a few times”.

Last year at the National Disabled Ballroom Championships in Cape Town the pair won second in both Latin and ballroom categories, while Rosewall was named Queen of Latin.

At this year’s Shall We Dance? the two will dance a rhumba involving a lift. “The lift is new for us,” said Rosewall.

“It’s quite risky as the chair has to be gripped just right, otherwise the arm rests come out.”

Not to mention Khanyase has to lift around 60 kilograms. “It’s more the awkwardness of the shape and how to pick it up than just the weight that makes it hard to lift,” said Rosewall.

The lift is hard work, concedes ­Khanyase. “But we are always trying to push ourselves to the limit and we’ve developed a lot of trust in each other.”

Rosewall said she had come to terms with her accident a long time ago.

“You have to carry on with life. I believe everything happens for a reason and I would not be the person I am today if not for that accident.”

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