KERRIN Shortis is striving to prove the health benefits of dancing to authorities, in the hope of it being recognised as a form of therapy for people with disability.
In the four years since she started dancing, the Bendigo resident has been well enough to gain and secure employment.
She had severe depression for more than 10 years prior, after both she and her sister were injured in riding accidents.
Both the Transport Accident Commission and WorkSafe will be watching Kerrin’s progress closely, as they assess whether or not to recognise dancing, alongside gym-work and hydrotherapy, as part of rehabilitation.
Her dance classes are funded until mid-2018, as part of a trial.
“If me getting out there means other people with a disability, injury or workplace accident can then advance in life, then it's worth it,” Kerrin said.
She was 19 years old when she was thrown from a horse while working as a trackwork rider, in 2000.
Her sister, Rochelle, had been injured in a fall about five weeks earlier.
“I’d just started to get my confidence back as a rider and started to deal better with Rochelle’s accident, then I had mine,” Kerrin said.
She sustained an acquired brain injury, cracked the main vertebra in her neck, cracked her right wrist and had to have a titanium rod inserted in her leg.
“I’m a very lucky girl to be able to walk and sit up properly,” Kerrin said.
She still can’t feel parts of her right leg.
Dancing was suggested to her several times over a period of about 10 years.
“I thought no, I don’t want to do that,” Kerrin said.
“I was a tomboy growing up… I’m not going to get into a dress.”
But life didn’t improve until she gave dancing a go.
Kerrin has gone from being confused by gym routines and hydrotherapy to preparing to compete in the ADS Bendigo Dancesport Classic on Saturday.
“I’ve got five dances to do in New Vogue style,” she said.
She’s held down a job for the past two years – something she wasn’t able to do before.
“For about 12 years I basically did nothing – a bit of volunteering, I got part-way through a childcare course, started doing a bit of casual work,” Kerrin said.
“I was having a hell of a lot of trouble with my depression and accepting the life change.
“I really feel that dancing is the one thing that’s been able to build me up at a slow rate for me to have the function and ability I have in my life now.”
Andrew White, of Bendigo dance studio iDance, said he had seen the 36-year-old go from strength to strength in the years he had known her.
In addition to developing her coordination and dancing technique, Andrew said he had noticed improvements in Kerrin’s ability to communicate.
“She’s much more articulate now than when I first met her. It’s been phenomenal to watch,” he said.
Kerrin is hopeful of securing a place during Saturday’s competition.
But she’s more concerned that people of all abilities have opportunities to thrive.