CURE NATION: We first met San Diego resident Ania Flatau at the 2019 Roll on Capitol Hill hosted by United Spinal Association. We’re thrilled to share her story to illustrate why Ania teaches dance fitness courses as a means of uplifting friends who roll. Please also see her advice below for young people who are growing up with Spina Bifida, just like she did!
Born with Spina Bifida, Ania Flatau has embraced dance and fitness for as long as she can remember. Originally from Colorado, this 32-year-old’s passion for performing parallels her strong desire to build community, as Ania’s ultimate goal is to show fellow wheelchair users how to purse their dreams too!
“I am an athlete, and I have a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology with an emphasis in exercise science. I am also a Group X instructor for U-JAM Fitness,” Ania shares.
Her love of performing has taken Ania all over the world throughout her time as a competitive dance athlete, including a lengthy stay in Europe.
“My family is originally from Poland, and has always been supportive of my passion for dance,” she explains.
Ania Deepened Her Dance Knowledge by Living Abroad
With her family’s help a few years ago, Ania discovered a two-week long dance intensive course in Poland where participants trained for a world championship ballroom dance competition, While there, Ania trained for six hours a day on the dance floor and dedicated the rest of her time to learning and growing. In many ways, this sparked her desire to share her knowledge with her community.
In the video below, American Dancewheels spotlights Ania and her ballroom dance partner Vlad as they prepare for the the 2015 PanAm Games Closing Ceremonies in Toronto, Canada. Ten dancers from American Dancewheels (including choreographer Aubree Marchione) were invited to the PanAm Games to highlight wheelchair dancesport at the closing ceremonies.
VIDEO: Ania Flatau Demonstrates Wheelchair Ballroom Dancing with American Dancewheels
Discovering Unity within the U-JAM Community
Upon her return to the U.S., Ania has participated in every type of dance available program, from ballroom, to salsa dancing to hip-hop. Finally, she discovered U-JAM fitness, a program that serves as a community-building platform to offer hip-hop dance fitness classes. She loved the fact that U-JAM programs aim to emphasize not just strength, but unity and belonging.
Immediately, she knew she wanted to be a part of the U-JAM outreach and education effort, and recognized she could transfer skills she had previously learned in ZUMBA workouts.
In a recent article with 24Life, Ania reveals how her adaptive sports background led her to becoming a fitness instructor.She says, “My fitness journey really began when I was five years old. I swam and competed at a national level until I was 13. When competitive swimming no longer became a part of my routine, I started doing things like wheelchair basketball. I was really fascinated by wheelchair dance and got involved in wheelchair ballroom/Latin [dance] about a year after I had stopped swimming competitively.”
“Several years later, I had decided that I always want to be involved in active dance but I really didn’t want to be in a competitive sport anymore,” she says.
“I wanted to get involved in things for my own happiness and wanted to develop a keener sense of self.”
That’s when Ania realized she could pass those self-care skills on to her community too.
“My goal as an instructor is to bridge a gap by offering a place for wheelchair users to go into the classes that are primarily meant for the mainstream, and then allowing that conversation to start,” she adds. “I want able-bodied dancers, students and instructors to recognize people with disabilities as peers, we’re just shorter!”
VIDEO: Ania Flatau and E’van Petros Teach The Rolling Sisterhood
Ania appreciated, too, how much she was embraced as an equal during her process to become certified as a U-JAM instructor.
“They didn’t give me a free pass through the instructor program. I was treated like everyone else. They saw me through the same lens. Their whole premise while I was learning U-JAM techniques was to make sure that I was going to be a good instructor, so we could make the environment safe for my future students who may also have mobility challenges,” she adds.
Ania says the inclusive attitude at U-Jam also helps provide three things that she feels are lacking in the area of fitness for the disability community, in terms of offering classes that are:
- affordable and
- within an uplifting community.
Making Fitness Programs More Inclusive, One Instructor at a Time
Ania realizes how important it is that she took the leap of faith and became an instructor with U-JAM Fitness, as their class network offers more than 2000 instructors but only three are wheelchair users.
“It’s opened up a lot of people’s eyes within the format,” she reveals. “There is a massive opportunity for people with disabilities to do this too. Someday, I want to offer training for instructors and other people in the U-JAM Fitness world to help them understand what it is like to be a person with a disability.”
“U-JAM recently partnered with the NBC television series, A World of Dance. Individuals from all across the globe compete in front of a celebrity panel for a million dollar prize,” Ania continues. “It’s a huge network for dancers and gives U-JAM fitness a platform to help us have a little more visibility while showcasing what U-JAM fitness is all about.”
Ania’s Advice for Young Adults who have Spina Bifida
If you’re struggling to find your place in the world as a young adult who also has Spina Bifida, rest assured, Ania understands. She admits that nothing she has done in life has been clear-cut.
“My mom always taught me to not just do something that makes you successful, but also do what makes you happy.”
“Always do things that make you appreciative of the fact that you are waking up and that you have 24 hours to live the day that you have,” she says. In Ania’s life, that means waking up every day to the joy-filled world of dance.
Ania Flatau Chooses a Cure Twist®
“I’ve been a Cure Medical catheter user for nearly five years,” Ania explains. “I recently changed my monthly order to the Cure Twist® for women because they are pre-lubricated. They don’t drip everywhere.”
“I made the switch to Cure Twist because they are easier on my body. I also love how they fit in my purse. They resemble a tube of lipstick or mascara!
“I’m so thankful for the discreet look because it makes it so much more socially acceptable and easier to carry around. I also feel that the Cure Twist is more hygienic, because it is ready-to-use so I don’t have to touch it while applying lubricant. That is also a huge concern for me.”
To request free samples of the Cure Twist® Ready-to-Use Catheter or any Cure Medical catheter, contact your local distributor of quality healthcare products, or click here.
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