Dance to Inspire: 5 inspiring stories of dancers who have risen above their limitations

Some dance to express and some to relieve stress. For some people, dance is a passion while others do it just to stay in shape. And then there are those who transform it into a source of strength for themselves and others.


We think of dancers as entertainers. However, their success stories are often more motivational than entertaining. Here are 5 inspiring stories of dancers who did not succumb to their situation and showed the world that nothing is impossible.

1. Sudha Chandran

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Sudha Chandran

A veteran Bharatanatyam dancer and a National Film Award winning actress, Sudha Chandran has inspired many with her never-say-die attitude. After losing her right leg in a car accident in 1981 when she was only 16, she fought her way back to the world of dance with the help of an artificial limb. In 1984, she starred in the Telegu blockbuster, ‘Mayuri’ as herself portraying her own life’s story. Since then she became a common face in Indian cinema and television. She has participated as well as judged in various dance reality shows and is also the proud owner of Sudha Chandran Academy of Dance in Mumbai.

2. Dharmesh Yelande

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Dharmesh Yelande

Dharmesh Sir, as he is popularly known as for his humble nature and immense talent, is the best example of modern day ‘rags to riches’. With his father working in a tea stall in Baroda, the ABCD starrer used to make both ends meet by working the whole day as a peon. He soon left that job and started running a ‘Pav’ stall only to bag more time for dance rehearsals. After 18 years of struggle, this seasoned locking and lyrical hip-hop dancer got the long-awaited exposure when he won the runner-up title in the dance reality show, DID Season 2. Today he runs his own D’virus Dance Academy in Baroda and is tightly associated with television and Bollywood as a dancer, choreographer, mentor and actor.

3. Ananda Shankar Jayant

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Ananda Shankar Jayant

At the age of 11, Ananda submitted herself to the proficient hands of the Bharatanatyam legend, Rukmini Devi Arundale, just as her mother had wished even before she was born. As a grown-up, she addressed many social issues through her performances and formed a nonprofit society for South Indian art forms called Shankarananda Kalakshetra in Hyderabad. The Padma Shree Award winner, apart from being a renowned classical dancer and choreographer, is also Indian Railway Traffic Services’ first female officer. Perfect as her life was, she was startled to learn in 2008 that she had breast cancer. Needless to say, she went through immense physical and emotional turmoil during her battle against the lethal disease and in all that, dance was her biggest weapon. In 2009, the 54-year-old ‘Cancer Conqueror’ rediscovered herself as a motivational speaker with her famous TED talk.

4. Whitney Way Thore

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Whitney Thore

A talented dancer, a licensed Zumba instructor, the protagonist of a popular American reality TV series and an activist –Whitney has been it all while weighing 171 kgs! Yes, you read that right. No wonder, she makes it to the list of awe-inspiring dancers. From the age of 12, she started gaining weight at an abnormal speed due to her PCOS medical condition and eventually quit dancing. Later, in a desperate attempt to lose weight, she started exercising vigorously and achieved a body which was fat but very fit. When her YouTube dance video, ‘Fat Girl Dancing’ went viral, she officially started a No Body Shame online campaign which has been very successful.

5. Stephanie Kurlow

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Stephanie Kurlow

Though only 14, Sydney-based Stephanie Kurlow is not too young to inspire. She is all set to become the first hijab-clad Muslim ballerina in the history of professional dancing and show the world that dance has no religion. Back in 2010, when her family embraced Islam, she went very close to giving up her childhood dream of pursuing dance as a career. Religious norms and cynical eyes had lowered her confidence. However, she was quick to pull herself up and chalk out a plan. She has launched a fundraiser to afford her ballet classes and wishes to open a performing arts school in future for people of all culture.

If you have more such inspiring stories of dancers from around the world, feel free to share it with us in the comments section.

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