Nadine Mckenzie

When Nadine Mckenzie first danced in a wheelchair she was unimpressed. “What is this?” she thought to herself. But in time she fell in love with the art form and developed a keen interest in integrated dance — in which people with and without disabilities perform together. An accident at the age of two left Mckenzie paralysed from the waist down. She was introduced to dance at a school for the disabled. Eighteen years later life dealt her another blow — she lost her mother, brother and four other family members in a gruesome accident. But she remained dedicated to furthering her passion for integrated dance. Her patience and perseverance were rewarded when integrated dance pioneer Alito Alessi invited her to participate in an integrated dance teacher workshop in Vienna, one of the few internationally recognised qualifications for integrated dance teachers. Teaching the disabled and the able-bodied to dance together is not easy. “Many so-called ‘able bodies’ feel scared and ask questions like, ‘Won’t the person in the wheelchair get hurt?’, or they themselves are scared of getting hurt by the wheelchairs, or they don’t know how to move together at first,” says Mckenzie. But she patiently teaches them to overcome their fears and express themselves comfortably. The 23-year-old is not only South Africa’s first integrated dance teacher, since 2006 she has also performed in numerous productions with Remix Dance Company — which specialises in integrated dance. One of the highlights of her career was performing with Dave Toole, a famous double-amputee dancer from the United Kingdom, who performs using a wheelchair as well as standing on his hands. Mckenzie loves everything about her job. “I love performing, teaching, and absolutely enjoy watching the beauty of movement. And being able to use this art form as another way of expression and telling stories.” — Fatima Asmal