By Kate Harrold
MEET THE inspirational dancer who was SICK-SHAMED by a neighbour who told her to ‘stop ruining the rights of healthy people’ during the pandemic.
Choreographer and dance artistic director, Bailey Anne Vincent (33), from Fredericksburg, Virginia, USA, was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis transmembrane related disorder shortly after she fell pregnant aged 18 years old. The condition means that Bailey is genetically anomalous particularly in regards to her respiratory and digestive systems.
Despite undergoing several surgeries, Bailey hasn’t been held back by the condition – or the hearing loss Bailey developed in her teens after experiencing sinus issues. The inspirational mum of two launched a career as a professional dancer as well as founding Company 360 – a professional dance company, which houses a sister company for the chronically ill.
The busy entrepreneur is even writing a book to inspire others – partially released during the pandemic – but not everyone shares Bailey’s infectious positivity. A neighbour of Bailey’s stated on Facebook, ‘I wish the sick people would just stay home and stop ruining the rights of the healthy people to go out.’
The comment has only fuelled Bailey’s mission further as she refuses to be sick-shamed – using social media to advocate for those suffering from chronic illness.
“I’ve lost a great deal of autonomy during the pandemic because I can no longer go to appointments by myself as I can’t read lips with everyone wearing masks so I’ve become more dependent on my family,” Bailey said.
“I’m trying to remain sheltered in place. It’s discouraging to see the apathy and selfishness being exhibited.
“I try to advocate for those with chronic illness through my social media account. I don’t always know if I’m doing the right thing but someone recently messaged me saying ‘I was angry about wearing masks until I saw your post,’ and it gave me such hope.
“There are people in the world who want to understand, they just haven’t been given the chance yet.
“For so many of us with chronic illness, this is a time in history where we feel more disposable than ever. People say ‘only sick people are at risk’ and you question your own worth.
“Frida Kahlo taught herself to paint while bed bound and in unimaginable pain. She took what she had and she adapted and put something powerful out into the world. I could never dream to be a Frida but I like to remember that our bodies don’t determine our worth.”
This is something reflected in Bailey’s dance company which she created to champion other dancers suffering from chronic illnesses. Throughout her own career as a dancer, Bailey’s struggles were alien to others in her company.
“After almost every major performance or travel opportunity for work, I end up being hospitalised but dance motivates me in a way that nothing else does,” Bailey said.
“When I’m on stage, I am not the person who has to read lips or the person who has a feeding tube.
“When I was a young adult I got my diagnosis. As it came so late, my health had taken a hit from the lack of medication and lung clearance.
“My health took another nose dive between 2013 and 2015 and after an experimental stem cell procedure, I felt like I was given a second chance at life.
“I auditioned for a dance company and my career started there. I have never looked back and won’t take the pointe shoes off until the stage lights have truly dimmed.
“I set up Company 360 and we perform full length and original contemporary ballets – our next one is set in a children’s hospital. It’s also important to me that roles are available for those that use American Sign Language.
“I always tell my daughters to try and put more into the world than they take away from it. There’s always a flipside to putting your words on social media but it’s important to me that I create and share my own words – rather than leaving comments aimed to take away someone else’s. That’s all we can really do.”
For more, see @catchingbreaths.