Lani Dickinson, who was born without her left arm, was adopted from an orphanage in China and brought to the United States at thirteen months old. She quickly adapted to her new environment and growing up found a passion for dance.
Lani uses her left foot and toes to accomplish her daily living skills."It just takes a lot of creative thinking. The process might be different, but the product is still the same," she says.
Lani states she had to learn to deal with people’s stares while growing up in Maryland. However, she had good friends that supported her.
"Coping with staring and rude comments or their doubts in my abilities, I definitely had to develop a resilience. Luckily, I had good friends that accepted me and supported me for who I am."
At eight years old, Lani developed scoliosis. Her mother enrolled her in dance classes to help straighten out her spine. Lani credits dance for giving her a new path in life allowing her to be herself again.
"I felt empowered in my own body, and that's when I found my voice. Dance gave me the confidence in how I carry myself."
But, Lani did face rejection from some dance instructors. "I have been turned down from certain ballet teachers. One saw that I had only one arm, and he said I would never have a career in dance,” she says. Lani proved the instructors wrong.
Lani went on to study at Alonzo King LINES Ballet at Dominican University in California. She was also awarded a $25,000 Princess Grace Foundation dance scholarship in 2015.
"My dream was to travel and dance. I was attracted to both the dance itself and how dancers can travel the world and perform on different stages," says Lani. Her dream came true when she was accepted into AXIS Dance Company as a full-time performer. AXIS is an inclusive dance company whose mission is to change the face of dance and disability through artistry, engagement, and advocacy work.
Lani says, "For me, dancing for an intimate audience, I just hope that they are watching and that they can relate in some way. If they've hit an obstacle in their life, I hope to inspire on how to overcome that obstacle."
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