Arkansas native Erica Graser-Gates is a wife and mother of three teens, as well as a professional make-up artist, stylist and dancer. Over a decade ago, she was still working as a physical medicine and rehabilitation nurse when she underwent a surgical procedure that later resulted in a spinal cord injury. Erica is currently realizing her dream of running an adaptive dance program and company dance team, Rolling with Rhythm – The Movement. She shares her story for the CURE NATION below!
Erica’s World Changes, In a Blink of an Eye
In 2007, Erica was suffering from severe back pain after an injury the year prior, so her doctors scheduled a surgery to try and remedy the situation. She explains, “The surgeon put in two artificial discs, one right under another. We didn’t find out until after my spinal cord injury that the FDA had only approved to use one artificial disc in a procedure.”On a typical evening some time later, Erica was hanging out with her family and had just ordered some pizza. “I got up to go charge my phone and felt excruciating pain in my back,” Erica recalls, “like a thousand volts of electricity. I collapsed on a piece of furniture nearby. Later, we discovered that one of the artificial discs broke and severed my spine. It sliced my spinal cord, resulting in a T-12 injury.”
She doesn’t remember the hospital stay three hours away, but eventually made it to rehab at Baptist Rehabilitation Institute. Before she knew it, she was heading home to face life on wheels – and it wouldn’t be easy. Erica had a dance studio set up in her home and everything was just how she’d left it, including her point shoes still hanging on the bar.
“My whole life changed in one fell swoop. I had danced for as long as I could remember. I felt like I lost my whole identity.”
The following months were like moving underwater. Her days were filled with doctors appointments, remastering daily living activities, and lots of tears. But, finally, a light began to appear at the end of the tunnel. Erica shares, “Everything changed, when I finally pulled it together and realized I could still have a life – it would just be a different kind of life; that I could still do things – but in a different way.”
“Prior to my SCI, I would dance for hours everyday,” Erica continues. “I decided, you know what, I still want to dance. It’s therapeutic for me and always has been. It’s like escaping to this place that really has a positive impact on me.”
Erica Sets Out to Rediscover Dance
Erica began researching adaptive dance opportunities in her area. Aside from some ballroom dancing, which wasn’t really her style, there didn’t seem to be much in Arkansas for dancers with disabilities. Finally, she discovered the Rollettes, which was much more her speed! She was interested in hip-hop, freestyle and other forms of dance. Still, though, there didn’t seem to be any opportunities in her area.
“I was calling, looking all over the state for some sort of program like the Rollettes – something for children and adults that had a company dance team. There was nothing in our state.”
It seemed to Erica that if an adaptive dance program was going to happen, she was going to have to do it herself – or at least find people to take on the task with her.
So, she went back to school and became a professional makeup artist and stylist, which would come in handy when it came to dance costumes and competition prep. She started volunteering her time for local non-profit events to hone her skills.
She says, “I still wasn’t sure how I was going to make this dream of dance happen, though. But, one day, I met someone and we started talking about a shared vision. And, little did I know, what I thought was going to be my journey evolved into a shared journey for many of us.”
Rolling with Rhythm is Born
Today, Erica is involved in running a successful adaptive dance program at Momentum Dance Concepts in Van Buren, Arkansas. To her, the most rewarding part is watching students expand into their dance talent in such short periods of time. She explains, “it’s so special to watch a student go from being so quiet on day one and 10 weeks later, they are on stage for the first time, all styled up, blowing the judges away.”
“My dream took off and it became this journey that all these other beautiful people are living – it’s not what I expected and it’s amazing to see it happen.”
Rolling with Rhythm has competed regionally, and have done well enough to advance to state and national competitions! At the recent Nationals, Erica competed in a solo performance (at the request of her students) and wowed the judges! She earned first place soloist overall, judges choice, choreography award and platinum high point, which means every judge gave me a perfect store.
This past summer, Erica travelled to Los Angeles with one of her students who has spina bifida and an assistant dance coach to attend the 2018 Rollettes Experience.
It was all Erica could have hoped for and she describes it as “a life-changing event for all who were there.” Erica says she has already reserved her spot for the 2019 event and it can’t get here soon enough!Looking ahead to the future, Erica hopes to expand her dance program to serve more people across her home state.
She says, “My goal is to not just be based in NW Arkansas, but to utilize other studios across the state to facilitate adaptive dance programs. I would be open to traveling the state to make these programs happen.”
Why EricA Graser-Gates Chooses a Cure Catheter
Erica says that she’s been using Cure Medical products since she was in the hospital after her injury. They’ve worked great for her – and she’s been using them since day one of her injury.In addition to loving Cure Catheters, she appreciates the fact that Cure Medical gives back to the SCI community and that the company was founded by an individual who lives with paralysis.
“Although I’ve been using Cure products for years,” Erica says. “I didn’t learn about the Cure Commitment until the Rollettes Experience.”
“I remember thinking, ‘that’s amazing!’ It’s really wonderful, because you don’t see other companies doing this for our community.”
Try a Free Cure Catheter Sample and compare the smoothness of our eyelets next to what you are currently using. You can feel the difference!
Cure Medical offers two areas of support to our community, with the intermittent catheters we manufacture, and also through the neurological research programs that we financially support.
WHEN YOU USE CURE MEDICAL CATHETERS, YOU ARE ALSO TAKING PART IN THE PURSUIT OF A CURE!
Founded by a quadriplegic, Cure Medical is the only catheter manufacturer in the world that donates the first 10% of its net income to support research programs in pursuit of a cure for urinary retention, paralysis, spinal cord injury and central nervous system disorders.
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