In “Gravity,” Piotr Iwanicki balances Marisa Hamamoto on his back from his wheelchair. His upper-body strength is extraordinary, as he leads his partner around the dance floor.
In 2006, Hamamoto was temporarily paralyzed from the waist down, and through her recovery, ballroom dancing healed her emotionally. She was then inspired to create Infinite Flow, an inclusive wheelchair ballroom dance company, to remove stigmas around people with disabilities and reflect mainstream dance. “I wanted to showcase not just wheelchair dancing,” she says, “but good dancing.”
Hamamoto called upon friend and ballroom teacher Gary Franco, who’s known within the ballroom competition circuit for choreographing lifts, to help choreograph the video, filmed in Los Angeles. Franco collaborated with Hamamoto and Iwanicki, a 12-year wheelchair-dancing world champion, to incorporate his wheelchair-technique knowledge.
Franco had never choreographed a duet in which one dancer uses a wheelchair, but the chair introduced expressive opportunities. “The couple’s theatrical and technical abilities allowed the choreography to flow out of me,” says Franco.