Standing Tall – Spencer West


Spencer West redefines height – in his spirit, in the way he lives, and in the actions he takes to affect other people’s lives.

Now two-foot-seven, Spencer was born with a spinal defect and legs that didn’t function. He was five when his doctors felt they had no choice but to amputate them. They said he wouldn’t be able to sit up or move around by himself. Spencer defied that prediction by learning to use his arms to move. Prosthetics weren’t for him.

While most people would be hard pressed to use their feet to walk the 300-kilometre distance from Edmonton to Calgary, Spencer West recently made the journey almost entirely on his hands. His purpose was to raise funds and awareness for Me to We /Free The Children’s ‘We Walk 4 Water’ campaign. The donations will provide a permanent source of clean water for 100,000 people around the world.

Spencer West is a favorite motivational speaker at Me to We events. Stories of his feats inspire audiences of school children across Canada. For example, he climbed the 19,341 foot-high Mount Kilimanjaro, raising more than half a million dollars in a similar Me To We campaign. He urges others to go beyond their perceived limitations and to give of themselves.

Check out Spencer’s best-selling autobiography “Standing Tall: My Journey”.  Also, his experiences feature in the documentary “Redefine Possible: The Story of Spencer West” that was shown at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival.

But here is the next best way to learn more:     TOMORROW, JUNE 17, 2014

There will be a LIVE-STREAMING of SPENCER WEST SPEAKING from 10am to 11:30 am EST at:

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Footwork Patterns in Dance: The Slow Waltz


The Slow Waltz is famous for its ‘box step’. Dance partners create a square footwork pattern on the floor, counting ‘1,2,3’- ‘1,2,3’ as they move together, one going forward, one going backwards, to form the box. Once mastered, other graceful moves can be added.

Basic box steps for the man:

  1. Step forward with the left foot
  2. Right foot step sideways to the right
  3. Bring your left foot next to your right foot
  4. Step back with the right foot
  5. Step back sideways with the left foot
  6. Bring your right foot next to your left foot

Box steps for the lady:

  1. Step back with the right foot
  2. Left foot step sideways to the left
  3. Bring your right foot next to your left foot
  4. Step forward with the left foot
  5. Step forward sideways with the right foot
  6. Bring your left foot next to your right foot

At each step the dancers rise on their toes. They balance themselves by throwing body weight from one foot and then on the other. Despite the relatively slow tempo, The Slow Waltz is transformed into a dynamic dance by its turns, its step variations and its elegant poses.

Think Fred and Ginger.

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Footwork Patterns in Dance: The Twist


The Twist is a rock and roll dance named after the smash-hit song “The Twist” by Chubby Checker. Super popular in the 1960s, it was the first major rock and roll dance style in which the couples did not have to touch each other while dancing.

Faced with explaining how to do the dance to the youthful audience of the era, a member of Checker’s entourage came up with the following description:

“It’s like putting out a cigarette with both feet, and wiping your bottom with a towel, to the beat of the music.” 

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Footwork Patterns in Dance: The Moonwalk


The Moonwalk is a dance move that presents the illusion of the dancer being pulled backwards while attempting to walk forward. A popping move, it became popular around the world after Michael Jackson’s Moonwalk footwork during a performance of “Billie Jean” on Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever on March 25, 1983. The Moonwalk became his signature move.

The Technique

A Moonwalk dancer creates the appearance of gliding backwards. Initially, his front foot is held flat on the ground, while his back foot is in a tiptoe position. His flat front foot remains on the ground but he slides it lightly and smoothly backward past his tip-toe back foot. He lowers what is now his front foot and raises his back foot into a tiptoe position.  He repeats these steps creating the illusion that he is being pulled backwards by an unseen force while still trying to move forward.

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Footwork Patterns in Dance: The Foxtrot


The Foxtrot is a smooth dance characterized by continuous, flowing movements across the dance floor, usually to the sounds of big band music. Similar in its look to the Waltz, (though the rhythm is in a 4/4 time not 3/4), the Foxtrot reached its height of popularity in the 1930s.

The basic elements of the Foxtrot are walking steps and side steps. The long walking movements also involve a rise & fall action, more subtly than the Waltz. The Foxtrot has a slow, slow, quick, quick rhythm. The slow steps use two beats of music and the quick steps use one. 


Partners stand upright with your feet together. Face each other, lady puts her right hand in man’s left. His right hand is on her left shoulder blade; her left hand is on his right arm. 

Basic Steps – Gentleman

  1. Step forward with your left foot (slow step)
  2. Step forward with your right foot (slow step)
  3. Sidestep to the left with your left foot (quick step)
  4. Move your right foot to your left foot (quick step)
  5. Step backward with your left foot (slow step)
  6. Step backward with your right foot (slow step)
  7. Sidestep to the left with your left foot (quick step)
  8. Move your right foot to your left foot (quick step) 

Basic Steps – Lady

  1. Step backward with your right foot (slow step)
  2. Step backward with your left foot (slow step)
  3. Sidestep to the right with your right foot (quick step)
  4. Move your left foot to your right foot (quick step)
  5. Step forward with your right foot (slow step)
  6. Step forward with your left foot (slow step)
  7. Sidestep to the right with your right foot (quick step)
  8. Move your left foot to your right foot (quick step)

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Footwork Patterns in Dance: The Cha-Cha-Cha


Originating in Cuba, the Cha-Cha-Cha is a lively and versatile Latin dance.  It is characterized by its captivating rhythm – one, two, cha, cha, cha or step, step, cha, cha, cha. The footwork is simple, focusing on shifting weight from one foot to another. 

You dance the Cha-Cha-Cha to music in 4/4 time. Your steps follow the music – two slow steps, then two quick steps, followed by one slow step. So the count would be: Slow, slow, quick, quick, slow. Slow, slow, quick, quick, slow… 


Partners face each other in a basic ballroom hold. Gentleman starts with left foot; lady starts with right foot.

Basic Steps for Men

  1.   Step forward with your left foot
  2.   Right foot in place, weight shifts to it
  3.   Sidestep to the left with your left foot
  4.   Move your right foot to your left foot
  5.   Sidestep to the left with your left foot
  6.   Step backward & left with your right foot
  7.   Left foot in place, weight shifts to it
  8.   Step forward & right with your right foot
  9.   Move your left foot to your right foot
  10.   Sidestep to the right with your right foot

Basic Steps for Women

  1.   Step back with your right foot
  2.   Left foot in place, weight shifts to it
  3.   Sidestep to the right with your right foot
  4.   Move your left foot to your right foot
  5.   Sidestep to the right with your right foot
  6.   Step forward & right with your left foot
  7.   Right foot in place, weight shifts to it
  8.   Step backward & left with your left foot
  9.   Move your right foot to your left foot
  10.   Sidestep to the left with your left foot 

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Re-imagining Disability: God as Disabled


Nancy Eiesland, theologian and sociologist, was 13 years old when she had 11 operations for a congenital bone defect in her hips. She realized that pain from this condition and from spinal scoliosis was her lot in life. 

So why did she say she hoped that when she went to heaven she would still be disabled?

The reason, which seems clear enough to many disabled people, was that her identity and character were formed by the mental, physical, and societal challenges of her disability. She felt that without her disability, she would “be absolutely unknown to myself and perhaps to God.”

By the time of her death at 44 in 2009, Ms. Eiesland had come to believe that God was in fact disabled, a view she articulated in her influential 1994 book, “The Disabled God: Toward a Liberatory Theology of Disability.” She pointed to the scene described in Luke 24:36-39 in which the risen Jesus invites his disciples to touch his wounds.

“In presenting his impaired body to his startled friends, the resurrected Jesus is revealed as the disabled God,” she wrote. God remains a God the disabled can identify with, she argued: He is not cured and made whole; his injury is part of him, neither a divine punishment nor an opportunity for healing.


For her full obituary, go to:

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Re-inventing Disability: A Standup Comic



On stage and off, Henry Holden aims to dispel stereotypes of people with disabilities. He says “humor can relieve people’s awkwardness about seeming disabilities or disadvantages.”

Henry’s career has been an uphill climb on crutches. He has learned to throw off the hindering, self-defeating images so often portrayed in the media. He has walked through closed doors to become a first grade teacher, an insurance salesman, a motivational speaker, and an actor.  Acting is his true vocation, the one he pursues. Being a standup comic has trained him to act truly ‘present’ in his body. Humor makes this happen. 

On stage, or even just out around town, he wears a tuxedo with a ruffled shirt, accessorizing with variously styled crutches. He opened his comedy club act by standing stage center, leaning on his crutches, and saying, “You’re looking at the pope’s most amazing miracle: I went to him with a speech impediment and he cured it.”

Harry’s wit and wisdom carries the day.  He was interviewed for the longer article cited below.  As a serious actor, he awaits the role that will earn him an Oscar for best supporting actor.  When receiving his prize, he plans to walk up onto the stage without anyone’s support.

Re-enforcing Ability: Canadian Paralympians


The caption on this advertisement reads:  “She doesn’t want your sympathy. But her opponents might.”

(Canadian Paralympic Committee / Comité paralympique canadien)

This picture of Stephanie Dixon appeared in the Globe and Mail newspaper on March 5, 2011. She is one of Canada’s most successful Paralympic swimmers ever. Born with one leg, Dixon often trained with and competed against able-bodied athletes. She began swimming at age two and by age 14 was already on Canada’s Paralympic team.

Stephanie Dixon has many accomplishments: 

  • Setting numerous world records.
  • Winning 19 medals, the second most by a Canadian.
  • Setting a Canadian record with five gold medals, at her first Paralympics, at age 16 in Sydney.
  • Earning a university degree in psychology.
  • Coaching swimming.
  • Travelling as an ambassador for the Canadian Paralympic Association.
  • Being inducted into the Canadian Disability Hall of Fame.
  • Mentoring up-and-coming athletes with “CIBC Team Next”
  • Training with Canada’s national cross-country relay ski team in Whitehorse.


Excerpts from:

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Recognizing Ability: A Foot Artist


Daniel Laflamme grabs a water bottle with his foot and bends over to take a sip. Then he adroitly places a paintbrush between his toes and begins to paint.  Deaf and mute, Laflamme, who has cerebral palsy, communicates through his painting. 

In 2006, the Quebec City artist was in Toronto to help publicize an exhibition by Canada’s Mouth and Foot Painting Artists.  The organization sells replicas of the painters’ works on greeting cards and calendars to help the artists live independent lives.

At the organization’s headquarters on St. Clair Avenue West, Laflamme showed off his prowess as an artist. Bent over like a pretzel on the floor, he painted with authority and skill as he worked on a still life of flowers and a fruit bowl.

Then he stopped to get more paint. He used one foot to bring the palette of paints closer to him.  Holding his paintbrush between his toes, he dipped his brush in the paint and then began once more to delicately apply color to his masterpiece.


Quoting: Debra Black, Toronto Star, July 7, 2006

Photo by: Rick Eglinton, Toronto Star, July 7, 2006. Photo Source: