Part of the Dance With Us Ottawa Para-Dancer Series:
Olesia Kornienko loves to dance. Despite being born with cerebral palsy, Kornienko has been pursuing her passion for wheelchair ballroom dance for several years.
“[M]any people say that I could inspire everyone around with my dance and my great passion for the art of ballroom,” said Kornienko, who performs and competes in Vancouver with her partner and instructor Andy Wong.
Born in Russia, Kornienko, 35, faced many challenges growing up in what she described as a non-friendly environment for disabilities. She decided to move to Vancouver in 2011 in hopes of finding a more accommodating community. She is now the only wheelchair ballroom dancer in the province.
Wheelchair dancing is common in Europe. The sport has even inspired a T.V. show called Britain’s Dancing on Wheels. Though it is not as popular in North America, wheelchair dancing is gaining interest thanks to Kornienko’s story.
“Olesia is someone who has strived all her life,” said Wong, owner of the Grand Ballroom studio in Vancouver. “Her motivation is off the scale and higher than most people without disabilities.”
Kornienko doesn’t let cerebral palsy hold her back in any area of her life. In addition to being a dedicated dancer, she is also an artist and poet. She has published poetry books, including one entitled Dancing With The Stars. When she can find the time, she also enjoys the physical challenge of rock climbing.
“Rock climbing is a huge effort for me, but when I conquer another rock, I look down at my wheelchair from up above, and… I feel free.”
In the short time that she has been in Canada, Kornienko has already competed in several notable ballroom dance competitions, including the Snowball Classic, The Pro-Am Fiesta 2013 and the 20th Annual Grand Ball. She has aspirations to become the first wheelchair ballroom instructor in British Columbia and to one day lead a team to the Paralympics.
Kornienko offers some inspiring words of advice to anyone thinking of pursuing ballroom dance:
“A long time ago I thought that dancing was not for me, especially with my stage of cerebral palsy. For people with healthy hands it should be much much easier. So my advice for them is just give it a try. If I can do it, you can do it too.”
See Kornienko and her partner Andy Wong in action here:
Wheelchair Dancing Has Now Become A Sport!
Combi Standard Class 1 final – 2013 IPC Wheelchair Dance Sport
Combi Latin Class 1 final – 2013 IPC Wheelchair Dance Sport Continents Cup