Reeve Foundation Story of Impact: Infinite Flow

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on July 27, 2017 # Mobility, Quality of Life

Marisa Hamamoto believes we all have a dancer inside of us and we all can make a difference in the world. In 2015, she founded Infinite Flow to share these passions with others.

A dancer herself from an early age, Hamamoto suddenly became paralyzed from the neck down during a contemporary dance class in 2006 while a senior at Keio University in Tokyo. Diagnosed with a rare spinal cord disease called spinal cord infarction, she was told she may never walk or dance again.

“I was miracle case, and two months later I walked out of the hospital,” said Hamamoto. “I was determined to find my path as a dancer again. In 2010, I discovered ballroom dancing, and it brought a new vibration of joy and inspiration into my life.”

Ballroom dancing helped Hamamoto heal emotionally as she continued to heal physically. As she began to build her career as a dancer, teacher and entertainer, she realized that she wanted to do more.

“I started to wonder if I would have really found my path as a dancer again had I not regained my ability to walk,” said Hamamoto. “I discovered wheelchair dancing in 2014, and after doing some research, I saw that it was very underdeveloped. My gut told me that it was my destiny to fill the gaps, and so came about Infinite Flow.”

Located in Los Angeles, California, Infinite Flow has instructed more than 200 wheelchair users though workshops, weekly dance classes, and community outreach events. With the mission to mass market inclusion through dance and innovation, one of the organization’s signature education programs is Infinite Flow Kids, a dance education and outreach program intended to engage kids with and without paralysis in wheelchair ballroom dancing and other forms of commercial dance, such as hip hop and contemporary dance.

In 2016, Infinite Flow Kids received a $6,000 Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation Quality of Life Grant to support instructional costs.

“At the moment, there are no fees for participants; all dancers are given scholarships in our youth programs,” said Hamamoto. “So we are very thankful to have help with the costs. We are still a young organization and the Reeve Foundation’s support builds our credibility and gives us much-need resources to grow our programs.”

In addition to studio rental and teacher fees, Infinite Flow also has “experience costs,” the funding needed to get the kids performing out in the world through dance productions and music videos.

“I hope to empower kids with disabilities that they have the ability to dance, express themselves, and progress as creative people,” said Hamamoto. “I also want to provide a fun opportunity for kids with and without disabilities to interact with each other, connect, make new friends, and break barriers both artistically and socially. In each Infinite Flow’s program, whether you have a disability or not, everyone is equal.”

Studies show that dance is good for both the body and mind. It helps improve balance and flexibility, reduce stress, depression, and anxiety and can bolster self-esteem, creativity, and cultural understanding. In addition to all these benefits, Hamamoto’s primary focus remains on inclusion.

“Infinite Flow is not just a dance company, but also a vehicle for social change,” said Hamamoto. “Infinite Flow Kids cultivates young leaders and dancers, thereby shaping a new generation where inclusion is the new reality. We don’t see the wheelchair. No one is given special treatment. We expect everyone to do their best. Everyone is challenged equally.”

As the organization continues to grow, Hamamoto plans to have Infinite Flow’s professional dance company tour the nation and the world, and add satellite locations and teacher training programs to reach more people.

“I am committed to increase access to quality dance instruction to people of all disabilities and champion inclusion as the new reality at all levels of the dance world,” said Hamamoto. “Infinite Flow opens the minds of audiences to the notion that dance is beautiful and that disability is a natural part of community life.”