KEEPING IT REAL: Sonya’s Story, Part III

Fri 25 Feb 2022

KEEPING IT REAL: Sonya's Story, Part III

Making Perfection Irrelevant: Dancing with Cerebral Palsy

By Sonya Rio-Glick*

CW: Internalized and externalized ableism; Trauma within the Medical Model

In the five plus years since I first choreographed, I had made big leaps in my understanding and appreciation for my disabled body and its spastic, messy, beautiful reality. Even still, there was a hole in my experiences: community. In my dance making thus far, I had always been one of the only disabled-identifying people in the room. While I had worked with a few disabled dancers and knew peripherally there were more, we were all tokens in nondisabled rooms. Disability culture, disability justice practice outside of my own limited knowledge, felt far away, until eventually, it found me.

Michelle Mantione, an established dancer with CP, found my thesis work through her connection to Hunter College, and she became a fierce mentor who I am grateful for. Around the same time, I found the chutzpah to email Alice Sheppard, the artistic director of Kinetic Light, a disabled dance collective on the cutting edge of access and technology in dance in the United States. Not only did Sheppard respond, but she invited me into a vast network of disabled artists that had been creating from an access centered, Disability Justice-informed approach since I was that 10 year old saying “But I do have cerebral palsy.” Hot anger swirled in my stomach and rose to the back of my throat as I realized this world had existed the whole time. I try not to dwell on what my life could have been if I had known of this community, and the possibilities it births, in my youth.

Mantione introduced me to Full Radius Dance, the integrated modern dance company that would eventually teach me to keep a count, among many other miraculous things. It was through the network Sheppard invited me into that I would also meet Anna Gichan, a deaf dancer who would teach me the technique I had craved for so long, in a way that is not normal but is so very good. I dove in and haven’t looked back.

Full Radius was holding auditions while I was working with Anna Gichan. “You can do this professionally. You should go for it,” Anna encouraged. I couldn’t dream of it. The little girl who couldn’t watch herself on film was still in me somewhere. Luckily, I didn’t have to dream alone. Anna and so many others were dreaming with me. I auditioned, initially for a pre-professional apprenticeship. But the director, Douglas Scott, asked me “Why?” A simple question that allowed me to dream a little bigger. Two months later, I moved across the country to begin dancing at the professional level.

Now I dance every day, and use every opportunity to share my ideas about the impact of Disability Justice. I’m currently a recipient of Dance/NYC and Gibney’s Disability. Dance. Artistry. Residency. The process of crafting my own piece for the residency, which is the first time since the onset of the pandemic — has been met with challenge after challenge while said pandemic rages on. I feel constantly worried about the quality of my work and making it accessible: “What if it isn’t finished in time? Will it be a true reflection of my work? What if the access isn’t perfect?” There it is again: perfect. Disability Justice teaches that attempted accessibility is better than no accessibility; that perfect accessibility does not exist. It reminds me there are infinite ways and opportunities to be in the world, and this residency is but one. So I’ll keep finding more ways; I’ll keep dreaming; I’ll keep dancing.


Tune into Sonya's showing, Waves With Nowhere To Go this Sunday, February 27 at 11am PT/2pm ET on Zoom or keep an eye on our socials for the YouTube link in the days that follow. 

Sonya is an Atlanta-based queer & disabled dance maker and community builder. She is a company dancer with Full Radius Dance, a 2021-2022 Dance/NYC Disability. Dance. Artistry. Residency Recipient, and a dancer in Anna Gichan’s upcoming Everything As A Speaker. Sonya holds a bachelor’s in Arts Management from Purchase College, SUNY, where she was influential in reforming fire evacuation policy for students with disabilities. She is a former Co-Executive Director of Dance for All Bodies, a nonprofit providing free virtual dance classes centering the needs of individuals with disabilities. When not working towards disability-justice informed dance, she enjoys reading, cooking, and spending time with her partner, Tess. Find out more about Sonya’s work at www.sonyarioglick.com.


*Sonya's story is part of KEEPING IT REAL — a series of personal stories that will take you deeper into the lives of people with CP. Each person makes different choices based on what works for them, and we’ll showcase that — highlighting what life is like for them on a daily basis, what they care about, and the ways CP impacts them. 

The KEEPING IT REAL blog is intended solely to raise awareness about the varied human experience with cerebral palsy and shouldn't be read or construed to contain any medical advice or medical endorsement by Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Foundation. Only you and your doctor know what's best for you. Please consult your doctor for medical advice.

Thu 11 Apr 2024

In the first part of our newest Science Spotlight blog, learn how scientists can harness electricity to help with movement disorders that sometimes accompany cerebral palsy.

Thu 04 Apr 2024

Check out the final part of Rindi and Soren’s story.