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Defiant Power of Human Spirit

personSlađana Milošević
history3 minutes reading

Defiant Power of Human Spirit is one of the key concepts in logotherapy. It is defined as an ability of the human person to discovery meaning in the face of tragedy.

Alice Sheppard is a disabled choreographer and dancer from Britain. Back in 2004 she was a professor at Penn State. During a conference on disability studies, she attended a performance by Homer Avila, a renowned dancer and choreographer who had lost one of his legs to cancer. Sheppard got to talking with him in a bar after his performance. He dared her to take a dance class. About a year after Avila died, she did took a class — and shortly after resigned from academia.

After leaving academia, Sheppard began exploring the techniques of dancing in a wheelchair and learning how disability can generate its own movement. She became professional dancer and choreographer. She trained, performed and toured with several physically integrated dance companies, including AXIS Dance Company, Infinity Dance Theater, Full Radius Dance and Marc Brew Dance Company.

The story of Alice Sheppard is a typical story about a defiant power of a human spirit; she has turned her disability/tragedy into triumph, in her profession and enjoyment and she pushed limits. Thanks to stories like this one, disability is not seen as it used to be.

You can see Alice dancing here. She is in a wheelchair.

While learning about Sheppard I have found information about the project, called 11 Million Reasons. It was thought up by the People Dancing charity, to “positively profile” deaf and disabled people who dance.

All the dancers were photographed reimagining famous dance moments, from Gene Kelly singing in the rain, Moira Shearer as a young ballerina in The Red Shoes and *that* lift from Dirty Dancing.

“All people can dance. Even people in wheelchairs can dance,” adds Luke.

Now, here are few more stories I like about defiant power of human spirit and music.

Melody Gardot born February 2, 1985 is an American jazz singer.

At the age of 19, while riding her bicycle in November 2003, Gardot was struck by the driver of an SUV and sustained head, spinal, and pelvic injuries. Confined to a hospital bed for a year, she needed to relearn simple tasks and was left oversensitive to light and sound. Suffering from short- and long-term memory loss, she struggled with her sense of time.

Encouraged by a physician who believed music would help heal her brain, Gardot learned to hum, then to sing into a tape recorder, and eventually to write songs.

During her time in the hospital she learned how to play the guitar and began writing songs, which were made available as downloads on iTunes and released on Some Lessons: The Bedroom Sessions in 2005.

She began to play these songs at venues in Philadelphia and was noticed by employees of the radio station WXPN, operated by the University of Pennsylvania, which helped to start the career of Norah Jones.

For several years, she traveled and performed with a physiotherapist and carried a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulator to reduce pain.

As music played a critical role in her recovery she became an advocate of music therapy.

You can hear her music here.

Christian Tetzlaff (born April 29, 1966) is a famous German violinist. We listened him playing in Vienna few years ago and I wanted to read his biography. This is when I have found out that Tetzlaff suffers from neurodermatitis in his left hand, which can cause extreme pain when the hand’s fingers are applied to the strings of a violin. Can you imagine that? Over the years he has managed the condition in a variety of ways, including by using cotton thimbles to cover his fingers, and more recently by increasing his blood circulation by exercising before performances. You can hear him playing here.

Itzhak Perlman (born 31 August 1945) is an Israeli-American violinist, conductor, and music teacher. Perlman contracted polio at age four and has walked using leg braces and crutches since then and plays the violin while seated. As of 2018, he uses crutches or an electric Amigo scooter for mobility.

Here is Perlman playing, and he is with his crutches and plays in a chair.

There are many more stories to prove that both dance and music will not be this rich and beautiful without defiant power of human spirit all mentioned artists.



Sladjana Milosevic
Blog Author Sladjana Milosevic

Accredited coach/mentor (MP EIA). Accredited coach/mentor supervisor (ESIA)

Diplomate in Logotherapy (Viktor Frankl Institute, USA)

Logocoaching – coaching by applying basic principles of logotherapy.

Coaching – Sir John Whitmore defines coaching as: “Unlocking person’s potential to maximize their own performance” (Source: Whitmore, J. (2002). Coaching for Performance, Third Edition: Growing People, Performance, and Purpose).

Coaching is not a therapy in any sense!

Logotherapy – Logotherapy provides answers to questions about the meaning of existence. As a psychotherapeutic approach, it brings into psychotherapy the knowledge that in addition to the physical and mental dimension, a person also has a third, spiritual dimension. In Logotherapy, the focus in on the future, on tasks and meaning.

You can find more about Logotherapy from: Viktor Frankl Institute, Vienna/Austria.

For more information about logocoaching, coaching and coach/mentor supervision you can send e-mail to Sladjana: