I was really struck by a story I heard on the radio the other day about a nondisabled boy who dreams of being a dancer. I think it’s really touching that he’s not letting his lack of impairment stop him from pursuing something he’s always wanted to do, and that his parents and family are so supportive; so often, it seems like the hapless and unfortunate nondisabled among us are constantly defined by what they can’t do. Even their own loved ones conspire to limit their lives in the guise of being ‘realistic.’ Their daily struggle for survival is so heartwrenching to see, and it’s so amazing to see nondisabled people behaving with such determination in the face of tremendous odds.
Most of us could never imagine being nondisabled, and the daily hardship that comes with it; little Billy Jo is really such an inspiration with his courage and bravery every day, let alone with his bold dream of becoming a dancer. Just looking at him is a reminder that there are so many special people among us who have been sent to bless us and teach us. Billy Jo is a lesson in tolerance and he’s sending such a great message to other nondisabled children like him who have a chance to see that it’s possible to achieve great things if you try hard enough.
Apparently it all started when a special programme for nondisabled boys just like him contacted Billy Jo’s family to see if they could make one of his wishes come true after hearing about his plight through a local newspaper. Billy Jo said he wanted to see a dance performance in New York City and they made all the arrangements, including a special charter flight and accommodations for him, along with chaperones for Billy Jo and his family; his father is disabled, but his mother is also nondisabled! Can you imagine two in the same family?! It must be so difficult for them.
After seeing the performance, Billy Jo was hooked, and he begged his parents to let him take dance classes. They were reluctant at first, worried about whether Billy Jo could really dance without failing and concerned that the other students might make fun of him, but eventually they decided to give it a try, and they sought out a dance school that accepts nondisabled students too. It was a tough search, because dance is very physically demanding and there’s of course a specific body type that dance professionals prefer; as a nondisabled child, Billy Jo doesn’t have a realistic chance of growing up to have the right kind of body or ability for dance. His parents hoped that his interest in dance was a passing one, not something serious, but he appears to be proving them wrong. He’s been dancing for four years now.
The stumbling blocks in Billy Jo’s way were considerable, and many dance troupes wouldn’t even consider working with him. His parents ultimately had to drive him an hour and a half each way to a dance class that would teach him, and even then, his teacher was initially dubious that he’d be able to keep up with the other students. However, his disabled classmates rallied around him in a really lovely show of solidarity, proving that children are often far less prejudiced than us adults are. Hearing them and their parents talk about the nondisabled boy among them was really sweet; apparently he’s almost like a real dancer! He even got his own solo in the class recital in the spring, although evidently some parents complained about the special treatment.
It’s so amazing that his disabled classmates get to have a real live nondisabled boy amongst them. They must be learning so much from being able to interact with him face to face like that, getting a chance to really humanise nondisabled people and understand the struggles they face. Billy Jo’s cheerful, positive attitude is a great reminder to his classmates that someone always has it worse somewhere, but you don’t have to let that get you down. His classmates are talking about holding a fundraiser to pay for Billy Jo to come with them to a regional dance showcase, and they’ve clearly adopted him as one of their own. He may not be able to do the things they can do, but they’re not holding that against him.
Yet, the path from children’s dance class to being a professional dancer is long and hard. Even disabled people fail, and the stakes are much higher for Billy Jo. So many things could happen to prevent him from achieving his dream, even with support from his loving family, his school, and the dancers he’s met along the way who’ve been forever touched by their interactions with Billy Jo. And he has so much riding on him; if Billy Jo fails, it will reflect poorly on the entire nondisabled community, a concern voiced by his mother in her brief interview (she can only communicate by speaking).
I hope that Billy Jo succeeds in his dreams and some day we might see him dancing on the finest stages of the world, with some of the biggest names in dance. His passion for dance, and his drive to succeed even though everything is stacked against him, is truly amazing. We could all take a lesson from Billy Jo: You really can achieve anything if you try!