I am Shiori and I dance

Her face relaxed, the look from her dark eyes straight and clear. The long, brown hair blowing in the wind. Coat and scarf protecting her from the cold on this misty, foggy day. Shiori is wearing headphones and is listening to music, as is always the case when she is on the go. She loves contemporary, jazz and pop, but also enjoys classical music. “I always have music playing. It makes me happy.” And she loves to dance, whether she is home alone, in the club with friends, or on stage in the spotlight. “Dance is a big part of my life.”

Shiori lives in Mainz, Germany. She is a fourth semester law student. Lectures, working groups, studying and exams are her life. Dancing is relaxation. It helps her process her emotions. At 19, Shiori has already realized something that others much older than her often struggle with. “There are things in life you can’t control, but you can always choose to be free.” Being free is very important to Shiori and, more than anything, dancing gives her this feeling.


“I feel totally free when I dance”

Shiori was born in 1999 in the German city Troisdorf, where she grew up in a musical home. Her mother is a pianist. Her father plays the piano and saxophone. “At home, we always had music playing and I always danced to it.” She learned the basics of classical dancing in ballet lessons when she was 5. Then, at 14, she started jazz dance.

When she dances, Shiori feels complete. However, to accept herself as she is was something she had to learn. This wasn’t an easy path. Shiori was born without her left forearm due to a rare condition called Dysmelia. “In the past, I often felt like I was looked at with pity. This really impacted my self-esteem. This is why I tried to hide my left arm most of the time.”

“Dancing taught me to trust my body”

Although she still finds herself occasionally hiding her arm unconsciously, she has freed herself from negative thoughts and the opinions of others. “I am who I am and am grateful for what I have,” Shiori says optimistically. “Dancing helped me through those times. When I am dancing ballet on stage, in the spotlight, I can’t hide anything. I am focused and have no time to worry about what others think of me. Dancing taught me to trust my body. This has set me free.”   

 Traditionally, Shiori danced without her prosthesis. This changed with a performance of the Cologne based DIN A13 Tanzcompany, an ensemble that consists of dancers with unconventional physicalities. Shiori was invited to participate by the choreographers, Gerda König and Gitta Roser.

During the production of “Technolimits,” Shiori performed in her prosthesis for the first time. “We were 3 professional dancers and 3 amateur dancers with prosthesis. Ultimately, it was about the possibilities that the new bionic prostheses offer.” She and the other dancers first explored the different qualities of movement during the rehearsals and then developed the story together. “It was so exciting, since, up until then, I only ever knew the stories that were given by the choreographers, which I then learned and danced.”

“I found my way”

Shiori loved the feeling of everyone working together. For two months, she gladly accepted the long journey to the full-day rehearsals. “Being a part of this gave me a great feeling. It gave me strength and so much joy.” She was thrilled by the reactions from the audience after the performance. “The people in the audience were in awe of the prosthesis. There was no pity. This was the biggest thing I felt.”

To be unable to dance is something Shiori can’t imagine. “I wouldn’t know where to put the energy I have inside me. I found my way.”

Life Without Limitation means I’m perceived as a whole person.

Shiori was born without her left forearm due to a rare condition called Dysmelia. She received her first prosthesis when she was only four. It bothered her more than it helped, so she left it at home most of the time. When she received her driver’s license, her desire for a new prosthesis grew. Now, she wears the i-Limb Quantum, a bionic hand with individually-articulating fingers. Sensors in the fingers recognize when there is resistance and respond accordingly. Different grips can be configured via a mobile app, enabling adaptation to individual needs. Since Shiori has worn the prosthesis, her left arm has become stronger as she uses her muscles more and more.