Marisa Hamamoto

Dance – ’00

“I want to make dance about taking joy in what you have—about being aware of your strengths and your uniqueness.”

These words could sound like a cliché coming from some people, yet on the lips of Marisa Hamamoto they have the ring of authenticity. Her extraordinary work in putting those words into action has started to bring her a lot of attention, including a story on NBC’s Today on March 19.

The Class of 2000 graduate of Idyllwild Arts Academy is the Founder/CEO and Artistic Director of Infinite Flow. Based in Los Angeles, Infinite Flow is America’s first professional wheelchair ballroom dance company, and its mission of breaking artistic and social barriers has its roots in Marisa’s own shocking experience.

The experience came out of nowhere in 2006, as she was studying biomechanics and pursuing a career in Dance Medicine and Science at Keio University, in Tokyo. It happened during a dance class away from campus.

“I felt my elbows tingle for maybe a minute,” she recalls. “Then my legs just went limp and I collapsed on the floor.”

A neurological disease called Spinal Cord Infarction had left her paralyzed.

“I did walk out of the hospital after two months, and I still have slight paralysis in my left hand and some numbness in my rib cage.”

But it doesn’t keep her from dancing—beautifully—or from teaching dance to people whose paralysis is more than slight.

For her Senior Show at the Academy during the spring of 2000, Marisa made a point of including younger Dance majors who were not selected for other Senior Shows. That choice foreshadowed her reaction to disease, if not the disease itself.

“Inclusion is still what I stand up for.”

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