Missouri man turns to dance to deal with illness

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (AP) — As an athletic incoming freshman at Southeast Missouri State University, Micheal Curry had hopes of becoming a football star. But a medical diagnosis sidelined those dreams and set him on a different path.

Curry sought treatment from a chiropractor for five years. Last summer, his health worsened.

“I was getting pain, and the left side of my body was going numb,” he told the Southeast Missourian . “And so I couldn’t really feel anything.”

Curry was told he needed an MRI, and it was possible he had multiple sclerosis. A specialist in St. Louis confirmed that diagnosis.

When he arrived at Southeast — he was born in Mississippi, lived in Tennessee for a year, then moved to Kentucky, where he attended high school — he was still interested in pursuing football. But, he said, the team wasn’t sure it wanted him. He was told he needed a doctor’s note saying he was OK to play, and he’d have to fill out a liability form.

“After leaving me hanging for about four months, they said, ’No, you can’t be on the team, but you can still come to practice,’” Curry said. “I didn’t hold anything against them. I understood the liability thing.”

After that, Curry said, he was in a deep depression.

Following the advice of a dance teacher at the River Campus, Curry attended a ballet class the next semester — “tried it out, and I loved it,” he said. Learning the history of dance solidified where he wanted to be in life: a dancer.

“It was kind of like my way of relieving stress,” he said. “And that really turned into the thing I did every day, other than football. When I wasn’t doing anything, I’d be dancing.”

Curry trained for football but slowed down after realizing dance and music relieved his depression.

As a sophomore, in 2014, he met another hip-hop dancer at the River Campus and they created Fingerprint, a dance club at Southeast.

“It was a good atmosphere and that’s what created Fingerprint,” Curry said.

Curry, now a 23-year-old senior with his MS relapsing-remitting, describes Fingerprint as “being your original self” — being influenced by what’s inside you instead of what’s around you. Forming the group, he reached out to whomever he could because there are a lot of dancers who don’t have an outlet, he said.

“They don’t think there’s anyone else who does it,” he said.

Feeling a lack of MS support in the community, aside from the MS Walk, Curry and the group planned a dance battle to raise money and awareness.

“That was the start of us throwing battles,” he said.

At each battle, participants perform three main types of dance: crumping, popping and breaking.

Curry describes crumping as an “emotional release dance,” which originated as “praising God through emotion.” Popping is comparable to “old-school funk” dancing from the early 1970s, he said. And breaking is breakdance, head spins and one-hand spins.

Curry said he learned a lot from the first “Dance for a Cause” event. Only one person showed up.

“We learned how to advertise ourselves,” he said. “But we cherished that one person who came to support us. They became our friend and ultimately became a dancer.”

The next semester, Curry tried it again and ended up raising a lot more money — and more attendees.

He now teaches at On Cue Performing Arts Studio in Cape Girardeau. That’s where he got the idea to create Fingerprint Junior, for kids in 2016.

The students who excel in the classes get to travel to Dallas and perform for the community at different events, along with the adults from Fingerprint, Curry said.

“That connection to the kids is what drives me now,” he said. “Because they really are the heart and soul of what we do. We want to continue the dance movement in Cape.”

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