Wheelchair to dancer: Angie's journey

FROM wheelchair user to belly dancer; Angie Johnson's remarkable journey has been only a little short of back-breaking.

Simon Tomlinson

FROM wheelchair user to belly dancer; Angie Johnson's remarkable journey has been only a little short of back-breaking.

The grandmother from Woolverstone underwent major surgery at Ipswich Hospital in 2000 after developing problems with her spinal discs.

She endured months of agonising rehabilitation and was often forced to use a wheelchair to move around.

But gradually with gritted determination, Mrs Johnson was able to walk again and eventually went several steps further by taking up belly dancing with her two daughters.

The 63-year-old said: “I had very bad pain and could not walk very far. It took me a while to get back on my feet, but I am not a person who will sit back.

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“It is thanks to the brilliant skill of Mr Sharp [the surgeon] and his team that I am able to do my belly dancing.”

The former charity worker's daughter, Mandie Day, 38, started belly dancing three and a half years ago and very quickly Mrs Johnson became entranced by the hobby.

She joined the Brantham branch of Mazazik Belly Dancers with her other daughter, Michelle Maller, 43, and the family have been hooked ever since.

Mrs Johnson said: “You can't sit still when you hear the music. You can feel really down but when you go to a class it is really uplifting.

“I have danced since I was eight and my girls love it as well. I spoke to Mr Sharp and he said he was happy because it keeps you supple.

“I still don't have much feeling in my left leg or foot and I can't sit for very long, but it is something I will have to live with.”

Mrs Johnson, who has worked for Scope and the National Institute for the Blind, was keen to give something back to Ipswich Hospital, which had also treated Mrs Day last year for pancreatitis.

She organised a belly dancing night in East Bergholt last weekend which raised £126 towards a bladder scanner in the A&E department.

And she received a welcome surprise when her brother, Clive Gordon, whom she has only known for 18 months, secretly travelled from his home in Spain to come to the event.

Mrs Johnson said: “We have only been together once so it was fantastic to see him.”

- If you would like to donate towards the bladder scanner fund, please call Mandie Day on 01206 299733 or Angie Johnson on 01473 781905.

- Have you overcome the odds after a serious injury? Write to Your Letters, The Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or send us an e-mail to eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

Belly dancing - facts and myths

- Originating from the Middle East, belly dancing is the slang term for a dance which uses the body, especially the middle region, in a much more flowing way than other dance forms.

- No one knows for certain where the name originates, but it is widely attributed to Sol Bloom, an entertainer considered to be the first to popularise the dance in the United States in 1893.

- It covers a vast range of dance styles from cabaret to highly skilled performances, folk and solo, energetic and wild gypsy, but all of these are characterised by the way the middle region is not kept rigid.

- Belly dancing is considered to be a health benefit as it focuses on the troublesome areas of the lower back and hips that create so many health problems.

- In the Middle East men dance as much as the women, but in the West it seems to be only women who have taken to it.

SOURCE: Belly Dance UK at www.zehara.co.uk