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Marathon bombing survivor dances onstage at TED talk

Professional dancer Adrianne Haslet-Davis, who lost her lower left leg in the Boston Marathon bombings, took to the stage Wednesday afternoon to do a short rhumba wearing a prosthetic leg made for her at the MIT Media Lab. Haslet-Davis, who has taught 20 different types of dance at Arthur Murray Dance Studio in Boston, performed briefly at a TED Conference in Vancouver, B.C.

Hugh Herr, director of biomechatronics at the Media Lab, was at the conference to explain the design of the leg, which he made with a team of scientists savvy in prosthetics, robotics, and biomechanics. Herr is a double amputee, resulting from a rock climbing accident in 1982. He first met Haslet-Davis at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital and thought he could help. The dancer’s husband, Air Force Captain Adam Davis, suffered a cut nerve and artery in his left foot in the bombing and had a skin graft from his right thigh to repair his right foot, which was peppered with shrapnel. He had just returned to Boston two weeks earlier from a deployment in Afghanistan when the couple decided to spend a nice spring day watching the Boston Marathon.

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After the TED performance, Haslet-Davis stood alongside dancer Christian Lightner and wiped away tears.

“I’m thrilled to have danced again. It was invigorating to dance publicly with my new leg, but also to realize that my return to dance may have the power to inspire other people to reach for their goals and be proactive in their lives,” she said in a statement. “I was always determined to dance again, and I knew that I had to, that I would, and here I am. My first dance happening to be so near the anniversary of the marathon bombing stands as a reminder that I’m a survivor, not a victim.”

The statement continued: “I want to thank the people of Boston for their incredible support on every day of my journey. And of course, I’d like to thank Hugh Herr, the director of the Biomechatronics group at The MIT Media Lab and founder of BIOM, for his determination to create the leg that allowed me to dance again, and to this amazing international conference, TED, for inviting Hugh to speak and me to dance.”

Video (above) courtesy of TED Talks 2014 in Vancouver.

Bella English can be reached at english@globe.com
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