Wheelchair dance team founder says practicing online keeps group connected during the pandemic: 'We adapt'

The Rollettes is an L.A.-based wheelchair dance team that’s proving that nothing can stop them from staying connected at a time when “the entire world is feeling isolated.”

"It was important to keep the Rollettes active through this pandemic because I feel like as someone ... who went from being able to do everything physically, to being able to have that taken away from me, I know what it feels like to feel alone,” the group’s founder, Chelsie Hill, tells Yahoo Life. “Let's connect. Let's do something together. Let’s do something positive.”

Hill was a competitive dancer growing up, but her world was turned upside down after she was in a car accident at age 17 that left her paralyzed from the waist down. However, she did not let her disability stop her from pursuing her love of dance. Just three weeks after the accident, Hill was wheelchair dancing in front of her high school, and that was only the beginning of her journey to create the team.

The road to creating the Rollettes began when Hill, now 28, reached out through social media to other people who had disabilities “and asked them to come dance with me in my hometown.” Those girls became her friends and teammates. Today, the team consists of 8 women who are role models and trailblazers in the disability community. 

“Our mission is to empower women with disabilities and to live boundlessly and shift perspectives through dance,” Hill shares.

Over the past decade, the Rollettes have been featured on Good Morning America, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The TODAY Show, and have even represented the United States in wheelchair dancing at the International Cheer Union. Aside from these highlights, Hill shares how meaningful it has been to make an impact on the lives of others and empower women with disabilities.

“You don't really realize the impact you have on people when you're just living your life day-to-day because you're passionate about something,” says Hill. She says it’s empowering to know that the Rollettes are making an impact on women with disabilities who may otherwise feel alone in their journeys.

Hill saw the pandemic as an opportunity to “reroute” and “adapt” by connecting in a different way and on a larger scale. By providing more virtual dance classes, Instagram challenges and creative online events, the Rollettes continue to uplift and empower their community during social isolation.

On Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), which was on May 21, the women hosted a “Boundless LIVE” series on The Rollettes Instagram Live account, an all-day event in which the team members led a variety of classes including meditation, cooking, dancing and more. Women all over the world joined these sessions and together celebrated the strides being made in the disability community. 

Because of the overwhelming reach and responses from the event, the team now plans to host monthly girls nights on Zoom, inviting women from across the globe into their community. Additionally, the team still plans on hosting its annual Rollettes Experience in October and they are also working on a virtual component for this experience to increase accessibility for anyone interested in attending.

Hill continues to change perspectives, far beyond just dancing.

“Just because there's a pandemic going on doesn't mean we have to stop our goals. It just means we might have to take another route.” The team has already broken down many barriers but knows there are many more ahead. “We are just getting started,” she says.

Video produced by Jenny Miller

‘Spread The Good’ is a series shining a light on individuals spreading positivity during the pandemic. Know someone who has been helping spread the good? Share in the comments!

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