Dance by Any Means Necessary
On a calm fall morning, Patrick Ulysse, enters a dimly lit kitchen. He walks over to the quiet coffee machine, and with the back of his hand, taps the glass of the half full pitcher, checking its temperature. The sun creeps through the closed blinds, illuminating his wide hazel eyes as he just stares into the air, listening. There’s a voice coming from another room. “Police are still searching for a suspect involved in a hit and run accident which left a woman in critical condition. More coming up on the news at 11.” Patrick lets out a deep breath, pours himself a cup of the room temperature coffee, and without adding anything to it, takes a large sip.
“I can tell you exactly where I was and what I was doing when I got that phone call.” After a long day of shooting scenes for a “Law and Order: SVU” episode since six in the morning, Patrick raced home to squeeze in a quick nap before he had to pick up his wife Jessica from the train station around seven thirty. Being a newlywed couple, living in an apartment in Brooklyn, the two shared a 2005 Hyundai Sonata. They had a schedule for who would take the car work. On this day, since Patrick had to shoot on set in Jersey and Jessica was teaching in Queens, he took the car and she used public transit.
Before falling into a fully fledged “sleep,” Patrick’s phone rang. Caller ID said it was “Jessica- Babe.”
“She told me she would just take the bus home because she knew I was tired,” said Patrick. “She is always so good to me.” Instead of coming straight home, Jessica decided to get take-out from a local Caribbean restaurant. After waiting nearly 20 minutes for the food, Jessica proceeded down the block to the bus stop. The bus was scheduled to come within 5 minutes which elated Jessica, because she too, had a long day, consisting of dance, loud music, and even louder children.
Too excited to see his wife, Patrick could not sleep. He knew she would be walking through that apartment door any minute now. He jumped out of bed and tidied the room up a little, gathering scattered boots and ballet slippers and putting them back in the closet, and remaking the bed.
Just as he finished fluffing his pillow just the way he liked, his phone rang. Caller ID said it was “Jessica-Babe.”
“The second I heard an unfamiliar voice, I knew something was wrong.” The stranger informed him that his wife was just hit by a car and needed to go to the hospital. Patrick rushed out the building, leaving everything as it was. He had to save her.
“She doesn’t remember anything after checking the bus schedule,” said Patrick. “And I’m glad she doesn’t.”
A vehicle making a quick turn onto the street Jessica was on, swerved out of control and jumped the curb only a few feet from the bus stop post. The vehicle hit Jessica and its impact launched her into a row of bushes outlining the walkway of a Brooklyn home. The driver of the vehicle stepped out, dragged Jessica from the bush to the sidewalk, got back in his vehicle and fled the scene. Fortunately, witnesses of the accident called 911 and came to Jessica’s aid.
A semi conscious Jessica mumbled something about a phone to one of her helpers before blacking out. They found her cell phone and searched through the contacts for people to call. They called mom and dad but left voicemails once the calls were unanswered. One of them noticed the wedding band on Jessica’s left ring finger and after coming across an entry named “Patrick-Babe,” felt he was the right person to call.
“After finding out how severe the injuries were, I wondered if she would be able to dance again,” said Adele St.Vil, Jessica’s mother. Aware of Jessica’s career as a principal dancer in the Forces of Nature Dance Company and as a teaching artist for the prestigious Alvin Ailey School, doctors warned that her life would change forever. Jessica suffered from a broken femur in her left leg, a few broken ribs, lacerations along her body and face, and head trauma. One of the broken ribs was resting on a vital organ which required immediate surgery. And once she was out of that surgery, she went into the next. This time, to insert the metal rod that would forever take place of her femur bone.
After the accident, Jessica had no choice but to give up her principal dancer position as well as stop teaching dance until she was fully recovered. She went to physical therapy for months and tested all different types such as acupuncture, hot yoga, and water aerobics, in order to aid in the recovery process of her thigh and ribs. The core of the body, or the torso, as well and the legs are very crucial elements used in the art of dance. Without the strength in her body, Jessica was afraid she would never be the dancer she once was.
However she kept trying. When she finally returned to teaching, her students greeted her with inspirational welcome back, we miss you, and glad you are feeling well cards. “She saw those kids and was inspired to go after what she wanted,” said Jessica’s mother. She noticed a growth in her students after the year and a half she was absent. Their growth gave her the drive she needed to realize that despite what doctors once told her, she would dance again.
“Her dreams were not over and I never seen anyone work so hard to obtain them,” said Patrick. Once gaining the strength to dance again, Jessica danced harder than ever. She went back to taking classes in ballet, modern and African dance. She spent hours in the dance studio or at the gym training. She even went on random auditions, not to land roles, but to prepare herself for the day she would be amongst the best dancers around, fighting for a spot in a company or piece. However her spirits were a little low after an audition in which the choreographer pointed at her and said “You! What’s wrong with that left leg?” Little did he know…
Besides that, Jessica felt her auditions did not go to waste. To her surprise, she landed a role in the film “One More Try” in which her character was a dance teacher. She impressed the producers of the film so much; they hired her as the choreographer for the film. While working on the film, Jessica had creative control of every aspect regarding the dance scenes and its characters. This new found leadership sparked Jessica into going into business for herself.
Less than three years after her tragic accident, Jessica started her own dance company KaNu Dance Theater. Through the company she uses dance to tell her story as well as those of others. The company has had many accomplishments performing nationally and internationally. They represented Haiti in the Festival of Nations, performed in the International Association of Blacks in Dance 25th anniversary conference and hold their own annual showcase in Brooklyn, New York. All Jessica wishes for in life is to be able to share her craft and inspire others to follow their dreams. Despite being the victim of a hit and run accident, Jessica triumphed and overcame any obstacle put in her way.
“She always told me she would do great things no matter what”, said Patrick. “And I never stopped believing her.” Jessica hated that Patrick had a DVD of the news segment about her accident. He took another sip of his coffee, walked over to the television, took out the DVD and tossed it in the trashcan. He then grabbed his camera equipment and his coffee and walked out the door.
Take a look at KaNu Dance Theater