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Why 'Dance With Nia' Is a Must-Watch Show for People With Disabilities

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Nia Sioux, of “Dance Moms” fame, has been in the spotlight since she was young, but now, she’s sharing the stage with dancers with disabilities! The 20-year-old dancer just launched an IGTV series, “Dance With Nia,” that features Nia and a variety of disabled dancers learning choreography and performing dance routines together. Each guest on Nia’s show is living with a medical condition — from dyslexia to fibromyalgia — and Nia delves into disability and dancer life with each guest.

Each 10-minute episode features Nia Sioux meeting up with a disabled dancer, discussing how disability and dance intersect in her dancer guests’ lives, and learning choreography for a duo performance. Nia seems particularly adept at adjusting to each dancer’s learning style and expressing how their strengths as dancers stem from their disabilities, in particular, remarking that a dancer with dyslexia has great attention to detail and works especially hard. She also shares a bit of her own experience with disability and chronic illness, and new viewers who aren’t familiar with her will be amazed by her story.

In the third episode of “Dance With Nia,” Sioux recounts being diagnosed with autoimmune disorder RND (now called complex regional pain syndrome) as a child and seeing it affect her dancing abilities. Nia was diagnosed with the disorder as a child, and when the pain reached the point where she could no longer walk, she had to relearn basic movements, like walking, hopping and skipping, before she could dance again.

Nia’s generally positive attitude towards her own disability experiences and the disabled dancers on her new series shines through, and while it occasionally borders on “inspiration porn,” the series is still a must-watch for both people with and without disabilities.

Dancers with disabilities are historically underrepresented in the media and on the rare occasion they receive mainstream attention, their achievements are often framed as successes “in spite of” their disabilities. But Nia Sioux’s show takes a different approach, highlighting the ways in which the dancers’ disabilities make them even better at their craft. Though the phrase “unique” is a disability cliché and feels a bit overused to describe Nia’s dance guests throughout the show, Sioux still manages to successfully accomplish what many others haven’t — take a strengths-based approach to discussing physically disabled people participating in dance.

But the representation on “Dance With Nia” isn’t exclusively limited to disability — Nia also uses her series to highlight dancers of color and LGBTQ+ dancers. In episode three, Nia talks with Shan, a nonbinary dancer with fibromyalgia, about how dance helped them accept their nonbinary identity and feel at home in their body, which is a refreshing change from seeing primarily cisgender dancers in the media. Although the episodes’ limited run time doesn’t allow for extensive discussions of intersectionality in the disability community, “Dance With Nia” debunks the misinformed myth that dance is primarily a sport for white, cisgender, able-bodied people and shines the spotlight on dancers from a variety of marginalized communities, which is an important step forward for the dance community.

“Dance With Nia” is a must-watch for people with disabilities — particularly disabled dancers — and anyone who wants to understand the nuances of living with a disability in the dance community. Although the show doesn’t completely steer clear of “inspiration porn,” Nia Sioux approaches disability in a strengths-based way and is easily able to hone in on her disabled guests’ abilities, which is a refreshing change of pace from the “able-bodied” narrative surrounding dance. If you want to see a wide range of talented disabled dancers in action, tune into IGTV or Facebook each Friday for new episodes of the series!

Image via Facebook.

Originally published: June 28, 2021
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