By JAN AUSTIN
Led by a young Pacific Grove woman, with members from across the country, Team Hotwheelz is coming to the Sherwood Hall in Salinas Oct. 13 for the first-ever Dance 4 Life event.
Dance 4 Life brings together able-bodied dancers and wheelchair dancers for a show that will feature hip-hop, jazz, contemporary, ballroom, lyrical and Hawaiian dancing. Walk And Roll Foundation has teamed with Central Coast Center for Independent Living to co- sponsor the show. Pacific Grove resident Chelsie Hill, 22, who co-founded WARF with her father Jon Hill, is the driving force behind Dance 4 Life.
“Because I’m a dancer, I’ve always wanted to do a big dance showcase showing all different abilities of dance,” said Hill, sitting in her hot pink Colours Wheelchair.
The dancers on Team Hotwheelz started a week of “dance bootcamp” on Oct. 8
“We have hours and hours of practice scheduled,” said Hill.
Besides Hill, the team is comprised of Joanie Carter from Gilroy, Maria Gast from Sacramento, Katie Estrella from Norco, Kaitlyn Staten from Florida, Mia Schaikewitz from Los Angeles and Ali Stroker from New York. Stroker was a finalist on The Glee Project this summer.
“These are all girls I’ve met the last two years since being injured,” said Hill. “These girls have gone through some pretty traumatic things like their injuries, but they have all switched it around to being completely positive. We all love to dance, so we decided to start a team with all seven of us. It’s pretty cool.”
Hill’s love for dance blossomed early in her life. By the age of 4, she was entering dance competitions at both the state and national levels. Hill’s life was changed on Feb. 21, 2010. A senior at Pacific Grove High School, she was a passenger in a car involved in a drunk driving accident that left her as a T10 Paraplegic. During her 51-day stay in the hospital she thought her dancing days were over.
“I didn’t realize that I could still dance until I met the girls on PUSH GIRLS” she said.
PUSH GIRLS is Sundance Channel’s reality TV show that premiered in June. It follows Hill and four other dynamic young ladies as they live their lives in wheelchairs. The second season will begin early next year.
“Whenever I go on stage to dance, I still get that rush that I used to get,” said Hill. “When I’m performing, I don’t feel the chair, I just feel me and I feel me moving just like I used to. I dance the chair.”
Hill and her father formed the Walk and Roll Foundation to help others with spinal cord injuries. They strive to educate and inspire others. Their long-range plan is to bring a spinal cord treatment facility to the Monterey area.
The father-daughter duo has spoken to more than 20,000 high school-aged students urging them to make wise choices about alcohol and substance abuse and distracted driving.
“None of us are invincible,” said Hill. “I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be where I am. I want so badly for people to understand how life as we know it can be taken from us by one choice.”
This spirited young lady is devoted to sharing her message about safe driving and encouraging others to keep pushing through life’s challenges.
“I live and breath Walk and Roll,” she said. “This foundation and speaking and dancing have become my life. I’m passionate about it and I know it’s going to succeed.”