Here’s a fresh perspective on inclusion.
I am a stroke survivor, inclusion and innovation speaker, and the founder of Infinite Flow, a nonprofit and professional dance company composed of dancers with and without disabilities using dance to inspire inclusion and innovation. New to us? Watch our 80-second sizzle reel.
I created Infinite Flow with no plan, no strategy, and no seed money. I saw a need, felt destined to fill the need, and dove in.
(Since 2015, I’ve brought Infinite Flow to perform over 100 times from school assemblies to corporate events with big brands such as Apple, Red Bull, Facebook, and others. We’ve been featured on NBC Today and Good Morning America, and our videos have been viewed by more than 75 million people on Facebook alone.)
I still consider Infinite Flow to be at the beginning of its journey. I’m still learning, working through our theory of change, figuring out what it means to build a social enterprise, and all that jazz. But after five years of experimentally building this dance company, there’s been some unexpected gifts that came from consciously making efforts to be inclusive.
Here are three of them.
1. Body Acceptance and Better Productivity
Dancing has always been my passion, but the road to finding my voice as a dancer has been nothing but smooth.
During my childhood, many told me that my body wasn’t made for dancing. When I suffered a stroke while in college, I got trapped in the belief that my body was broken. And after three sexual assaults, I could only see my body as an object of abuse.
These incidents led to years of body shaming, turning to fad diets, and even rejecting coffee dates just because I didn’t like how I looked.
However, after 5 years of teaching and preaching that every “body” can dance regardless of size, shape, height, race, color, age, or disability, I came to accept and be grateful for my body for what it is. This discovery has led to not only having peace with myself but also to healthier habits both in my personal and professional life.
When you are exposed to the beauty of diversity and humanity, what you thought was unsightly becomes beautiful, and what you thought were your flaws become your strengths. You become more confident in your own body and skin, and naturally, you become more productive at work. Take a 5 min break and dance with us to Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling”:
2. Inclusion Leads to Pushing Past Limiting Beliefs
Close your eyes and imagine a dancer. What do you see?
Probably not a dancer using a wheelchair, crutches, deaf, blind, or with a developmental disability.
Over the 5 years of leading Infinite Flow, we have been on a journey to push past the stigma around disability, but something interesting happened along the way.
I, the non-disabled dancer, often felt like I was the one with the “disability.” Whether it was thinking a new dance move was not possible before I even tried, or being scared to make that one phone call to a potential client or partner.
However, seeing my dancers with disabilities push past their perceived limitations has inspired and motivated me to push past my own.
Disability is stigmatized. But what more is stigmatized is the capabilities of people with disabilities. But is this just people with disabilities? When was the last time you said quietly to yourself, “Oh, that is not possible for me?”
We, as human beings, often place a cap on our abilities and potential, but with a little mindset training, each of us can push past our limiting beliefs.
Our brain processes images 60 times faster than words. Having a strong visual as a reminder to your infinite possibilities and the beauty of inclusion can jumpstart a mindset for success.
Here is one from us:
What is one limiting belief that you can rewrite, so it doesn’t get in your way?
3. Preaching “inclusion inspires innovation” prepared me to be able to turn a crisis into an opportunity to spark creativity
Let’s face it. Think about all the changes you’ve had to make due to Covid-19. Work-life balance, conferences, lunch together, where did it all go?
I hit rock bottom too. But let me share with you how I turned social distancing into fuel for creativity.
I live and breathe INCLUSION INSPIRES INNOVATION through leading Infinite Flow. At the base of Infinite Flow is partner-dancing. The infinity sign represents two people of different abilities dancing together in connection and eternity, creating a symbol of inclusion.
However, this became unavailable with social distancing.
So we asked ourselves, how can we reimagine partner-dancing? With the little resources we had in front of us, we came up with this video.
Some of the world’s most significant innovations came from overcoming perceived limitations. A blind woman seeking to write a love letter in confidentiality led to the invention of the typewriter. And texting came from deaf individuals wishing to talk to each other over the phone.
Your organization could be next.
Let’s keep thinking outside the box during these challenging times.
About the author: Marisa Hamamoto is the founder, CEO, and artistic director of Infinite Flow