Woman overcomes disability to find success as dancer

A young woman has taken the phrase "overcoming adversity" to a new level.
November 14, 2013 9:59:38 PM PST
A young woman has taken the phrase "overcoming adversity" to a new level. Lani Dickinson is a 19-year-old student at Dominican University enrolled in the Alonzo King LINES Ballet program. She is talented, tenacious and she has a disability.

Ballet requires strength and balance, something demonstrated by Dickinson and her fellow dancers. But Dickinson faces a more difficult challenge than the other dancers; she was born without a left arm.

"It's kind of a battle between trying to be normal and trying to be different and that's the beauty of dance," she said.

Her teachers are aware of her limitations but they focus on her talent.

"I think her mother must be very special because this child has grown up without feeling any limitations," program director Marina Hotchkiss said.

Dickinson was born in China and adopted by an American mother when she was 13 months old. When she was 8 years old, she developed scoliosis -- when a person's spine begins to curve sideways instead of straight.

"And so my mom put me in ballet classes because she thought it would help with my alignment and then I started to perform in the Nutcracker and I started to like it," Dickinson said.

Dickinson liked it so much that she left her home in Massachusetts to study with Hotchkiss and the Alonzo King LINES Ballet.

The program is offered by Dominican University in San Rafael. Dickinson practices in the morning in San Francisco and returns to San Rafael to do her academic work in the afternoon.

"I don't want to be a hassle to my choreographers; I want them to challenge me and not hold back," Dickinson said.

She says her goal is to become a professional dancer.

"It feels good and I want my audience to see how it feels to just move," she said.

Dickinson is performing Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Angelico Concert Hall at Dominican University in San Rafael.

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