Health & Body

How This Dance Teacher Survived Getting Hit by a Truck and Made It Back to Teaching

Jason Facey, Courtesy Rox

Three broken ribs, two broken ankles and one broken wrist. These are the last things a dancer wants to hear, let alone experience. On September 28, 2019, dancehall and soca choreographer and teacher Betty Rox found herself facing this reality when she was struck by a car while out for a walk in Los Angeles, California. She awakened in the arms of a caring stranger, unable to move.

But despite her initial disorientation and multiple injuries, her optimistic mindset led her down a path to a speedy recovery. Here's what got her back to dancing.


Her First Thoughts

"Being rushed to the hospital and not really knowing what's going on is a little bit scary," says Rox. "But I never, not once, felt like I wouldn't dance again." At the hospital, Rox's mother relayed the good news: She'd ultimately be okay. But what followed was an unsettling feeling when she learned that doctors were unsure how long it would take for her to walk or dance again based on the extent of her ankle injuries. Although this came as a shock, Rox felt grateful to still have both legs after being pinned within the grill of the vehicle. "I'm very spiritual, so I always had the faith that I would bounce back from this, and that I needed to just give myself the time to heal," she says.

Known for her unique island flavor combining soca, a cultural dance style originating from Trinidad and Tobago, and dancehall, a style rooted in Jamaica's energetic reggae culture, it came as a shock to friends, family and students when they discovered that, after two surgeries, Rox would have to learn how to walk again. One friend created a GoFundMe campaign, and over $14,000 was raised to support Rox on her road to recovery.

The support from both loved ones and strangers helped Rox stay in a healthy mental space. "I went from dancing, moving and doing whatever I want to literally being in a position where I needed to call someone every second that I needed to do something," she adds. "That was a frustrating process because I'm so independent. It put me in a really humbling position."

Her positivity made the transition into the Rancho Los Amigos Rehabilitation Center and working with physical therapists that much smoother, going from wheelchair to walking within two weeks.

Betty stands smiling with her hands in her pockets, wearing red, green, and gold clothing.

Jason Facey, Courtesy of Betty Rox

On Taking Her Time to Heal

"My students were asking me when I'm gonna teach again, so I did feel some obligation," she says. "But at the same time, I told myself 'You're allowed to take this time to yourself.' "

Rox has a few friends—mostly dancers—who have been injured in the past, and all of them offered similar advice: "You are by no means being pressured to come back to dancing or teaching. Take your time to heal, because once you reinjure yourself, then it makes it even harder for your comeback." She channeled that advice and used it as a reminder to not rush her healing process.

The pandemic has only helped her take a more intentional approach to her recovery. "It pushed me to take some more time to heal, and I'm glad because I really do feel like I would've probably tried to teach a lot earlier," she says, laughing.

The Healthy Habits That Helped Her Recover

Meditation, journaling and prayer were key factors in Rox's recovery, and have remained her go-to healing habits even almost a year after the accident. "I always did these things, but it just became more heightened in the situation that I was in," she says. "Now, I'm just so much more aware and prepared to take care of myself on a different level."

Betty Rox stands smiling, while holding two 10 lb. dumbbells.

Jason Facey, Courtesy of Betty Rox

How Her Teaching Has Shifted

So, how has this life-changing experience made Rox a better teacher? For one, it has made her more aware of her body. "I want people to be able to experience what's happening with their bodies, and not just rush through the process," she says. "It's made me aware of how much I want to explain to my students how to properly utilize their bodies and connect to the movement more."

As she approaches the one-year anniversary of the accident, Rox is back on her feet and teaching her first class on Instagram Live this weekend.

How Being a Dancer Helped Her Heal

"I think our bodies register healing very differently because we are used to doing so many things, and I think they've gotten equipped to making changes very quickly," she says. "Our bodies are in a whole different process when it comes to healing because of our background."

Teachers Trending
Maks and Val Chmerkovskiy. Photo courtesy Dance With Me

Listening to Maks and Val Chmerkovskiy riff together makes it crystal-clear why each has mastered the art of partnering in the ballroom—they've long been doing this dance in real life as brothers and business partners.

Along with their "Dancing with the Stars" pedigree (and a combined three mirror-ball trophies between them), Maks and Val (and their father, Sasha) also run Dance With Me, a dance company hosting six ProAm Dancesport competitions annually and running 14 brick-and-mortar studio locations across the U.S.

Last year, the pair launched an online component, Dance & Co. The online video platform offers beginner through advanced instruction in not only ballroom but an array of other styles, as well as dance fitness classes from HIIT to yoga to strength training. "DWTS" fans will recognize such familiar faces as Peta Murgatroyd, Jenna Johnson, Sharna Burgess and Emma Slater, along with Maks and Val themselves.

Keep reading... Show less
Teaching Tips
@jayplayimagery, courtesy Kerollis

In the spring of 2012, Barry Kerollis was abruptly forced into treating his career as a small business. Having just moved cross-country to join BalletX, he got injured and was soon let go.

"I'd only ever danced with big companies before," the now-freelance dance-teacher-choreographer-podcaster recalls. "That desperation factor drove me to approach freelancing with a business model and a business plan."

As Kerollis acknowledges, getting the business of you off the ground ("you" as a freelance dance educator, that is) can be filled with unexpected challenges—even for the most seasoned of gigging dancers. But becoming your own CEO can make your work–life balance more sustainable, help you make more money, keep you organized, and get potential employers to offer you more respect and improved working conditions. Here's how to get smart now about branding, finances and other crucial ways to tell the dance world that you mean business.

Keep reading... Show less
Teachers Trending
Courtesy Oleson

American dance educator Shannon Oleson was teaching recreational ballet and street-dance classes in London when the pandemic hit. As she watched many of her fellow U.S. friends pack up and return home from their international adventures, she made the difficult choice to stick with her students (as well as her own training—she was midway through her MFA at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance).

Despite shutdowns and shelter-in-place orders, she was able to maintain a teaching schedule that kept her working with her dancers through Zoom, as well as lead some private, in-home acro classes following government guidelines. But keeping rec students interested in the face of pandemic fatigue hasn't been easy.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.