A lesson in never giving up on your passion and relearning what you love with Sophia Moore.
Sophia is a musical theatre student living with Joint Hypermobility Syndrome and she hasn't let her reduced mobility interfere with doing the things she loves. Crutches or no crutches - Sophia is going to dance. And that determination and resilience are what have allowed her to live her life on her terms, fuelling her passions and chasing her dreams.
We were lucky enough to catch up with Sophia to talk all about her life, love of dance and future embracing crutches to make a difference!
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Where you're from / what you do for a living / the nature of your disability?
My name is Sophia, I’m 23 and I’m a Libra. I was born in Essex, and I’m now studying Musical Theatre in Guildford. I hope to perform in musicals and inspire everyone and remind them that anyone can do anything. I originally stopped being able to walk due to pain in my left hip when I was 13, and ended up on crutches. I had multiple hip operations which didn’t work long term. I was then diagnosed with Joint Hypermobility Syndrome at around 15 and continued having hip operations culminating in a PAO in 2020. With no long term relief, I ended up having a hip replacement at 21 (in a pandemic – was not fun!). Sadly, I still don’t have long term relief and have now been on crutches permanently for 6 months with no idea when or if that might ever change.
How long have you been living with a disability and how has it affected your daily life both physically and mentally?
My disability has affected me since I was 13. When I was younger, it made me really upset – I gave up performing as I didn’t think I could do it on crutches. When I finished school, I went to do a ‘sensible’ degree in Theatre Production (still theatre based, of course), but I ended up having a mental breakdown and had to move back home. I was forced to rebuild my life and began working to get out of the depression I was in. I changed my mind set and decided that I could do anything with or without crutches. Becoming confident in my disability has taken me a while, but as I’m getting older it has given me the freedom to be who I am. Physically, I can’t weight bear on my left leg and am in constant pain, which is tiring and learning to live with that has been hard. I am, however, lucky to still have lots of flexibility in my legs which helps me dance. The household chores I would normally take for granted are much harder, like cooking, washing and carrying things.
Do you feel adjusting to a disability is supported by society? How could this be better?
This is a hard one because obviously, there is still prejudice everywhere. Even coming from the Musical Theatre world, where everyone is open and mostly accepting of people, there are still issues. However, things have definitely already begun to change. When I first started thinking about training at a dance college almost ten years ago, when you auditioned they asked for your medical records and performed a physical examination which I would NOT have passed. Clearly some change has happened already as I am at a Musical Theatre college studying now, but we are definitely not all the way yet. I think to continue improving this I would definitely encourage people to use the world disabled. Don’t shy away from it, just use it, because it’s not an insult. Do your research, a quick google search will tell you a lot about how disabled people want to be treated. Politely ask questions, but also accept when you’re wrong. Don’t make assumptions about how people want to be referred to or treated. Keep consuming disabled content: articles, videos, Instagram posts, podcasts etc.
Are there any things you've found have helped support you or impacted your mental health in a positive way when it comes to living with a disability?
My friends’ and family’s support over the last 10 years has been unmatched. I have also felt more pride in myself and my disability, especially recently, through connecting with more disabled people through social media. My mental health has also improved since I have gained more independence, by working out ways to do things like cooking, cleaning, laundry etc. Having good crutches has also supported me so much as it has helped me with independence but also with doing things I love, such as going for walks and obviously dancing. The last few months have been really challenging for me but having a supportive environment at college who have accepted me and are willing to work with me, has really helped improve my mental health. My university have allowed me to choreograph and dance at big performances like Move It: the world’s biggest dance event. I also still teach the children at PPA Kids on crutches, and they barely notice they are there anymore. I also work at my university as the Equality & Diversity officer, which fills me with so much joy as I not only get to help create a positive environment for any current disabled/black/queer students, including myself, but for future years too.
What is your biggest struggle living with your disability?
The biggest struggle for me is, within the Musical Theatre world, there are very few people like me currently in the industry so I feel like I am constantly creating the path. This is wonderful to know that I may be the first person to help create change and inspire people, but it’s also scary because no one has done it yet so I don’t have a role model or a community to look to who understand my situation. I am also constantly tired, because it’s just hard work!
What advice would you give to someone facing a life changing diagnosis or injury?
I would say allow yourself to feel sad, but don’t give up on anything. I did this with dance, and it took me years to find my way back to it. I’d also say find a disabled community or a community of people who understand what you’re going through. And then the cliché: look for the little joys in life, whether that’s a new pair of crutches, a pretty flower, someone paying you a compliment, or finding a penny on the ground, finding the small positives in things has helped my overall outlook in life.
What keeps you motivated?
The things that are most helpful in keeping me motivated are my friends, my family and my love of dance and musical theatre. I also love to go and watch shows in the West End as it constantly reminds me what I am working towards. I also often get messages from people I’ve never met who have seen my posts. They say how I’ve inspired and/or made them feel more comfortable about their disabilities and mobility aids. This, for me, is what it’s all about and has made me think that maybe this is what I was made to do.
If you could change one thing to improve the lives of disabled people, what would it be?
I genuinely think the key to improving the lives of so many people is money. If all disabled people were able to access the correct equipment, care and support they need I think that would solve some of the problems. The care and equipment is out there, but often expensive, or only available privately, or available on the NHS but only if you wait 3 years! I know my quality of life improved so massively after my hip replacement which, because the wait was so long on the NHS and I was lucky enough to raise enough money through crowdfunding, I had privately. I also could not live without my Cool Crutches now, but I know for a lot of people they cannot afford such luxuries. If we could improve access to such care, I think it would change a lot of people’s lives.
When did you start using Cool Crutches or Sticks or both, and why?
I got my first Cool Crutches in January this year because I had finally realised that I wanted to take dance on crutches seriously, and I couldn’t do that with NHS crutches. I needed a pair of not only sturdy, but silent crutches as I could not bear performing if they were going to click every time I moved.
Do you think Cool Crutches have helped you to move more or walk better?
Cool Crutches have definitely helped me move better because I can dance without constantly worrying they’ll break. My NHS ones once broke when I was walking, so these have changed the game! They have also taken some of the pressure off my hands as they have a specially shaped and comfortable handle. Having Cool Crutches has also enabled me to do performances, the silver NHS ones would definitely not look good on stage, but my black ones do.
Have Cool Crutches changed your view of mobility aids at all?
Cool Crutches have changed my view on mobility aids because they have now become more than just a mobility aid, as they can be different colours and patterns. I now get excited to get dressed up for certain events because I have crutches that I love, to match my outfit, whereas before I wouldn’t want to go out to any events with my crutches because ironically I didn’t think they were ‘cool’ enough.
How do businesses like Cool Crutches help the disabled community?
Cool Crutches help the disabled community by allowing them to be more mobile and help them be able to take part in activities they would like to. Cool Crutches have also helped the disabled community by creating a place where disabled people can see each other on Instagram. They regularly share pictures of people using their crutches and I’ve met lots of people through their Instagram and have had plenty of interesting conversations where someone has inspired me or vice versa.
What would be the theme tune to your life?
I was a bit stumped here so I asked my friends, they said Electricity from Billy Elliot really reminds them of me. It has such a personal connection for me as I made my West End debut in Billy Elliot when I was 10, but also the lyrics really resonate with me because I agree dancing is just so special and even when I tried to give it up it didn’t work because I loved it so much. Plus, it has a dance break and my life is just one big dance break!
If you could have a dinner party with anyone in the world, dead or alive, who would it be?
I can’t pick one! I’d love to chat to Misty Copeland about her experiences as a Black woman in Ballet. Or Michelle Obama because, duh! Or Taylor Swift (this being said if I’m not at the Eras tour when it comes to London I will scream). Or Reneé Rapp, she’s pretty cool too.
If you could have a dream day out with anyone, doing anything, who would it be with and what would you be doing?
I’d start the day with a big lie in, because I am a huge lover of sleep. Then I would have a nice big cooked breakfast with my mum because that’s one of our favourite breakfasts. I would magically teleport to Tenerife to go to my favourite water park (Siam Park) for the afternoon and then I’d make it back to London just in time for dinner. I would definitely have My Old Dutch, because I love their pancakes, and then I would go and see a show with my friend Abbie. Currently I would love to see the Great British Bake Off musical again (which sadly just closed) but I get a new favourite musical every week so that will probably change.
What's the best advice you've been given?
I have been given a lot of advice over the years, but recently I saw a show that had a line that really resonated with me. ‘Be the change, that you want to see, be the change we must believe, there’s nothing that we can’t achieve’ from Sylvia the Musical. My friend Sharon Rose played the lead and so I went to see it and that line really stood out to me. It helps me remember that I didn’t get to have a disabled, dancing role model when I was younger, but if I work hard enough, there might be someone younger than me who needs that role model, and I just might get to be that person.
Is there anything in the pipeline you're excited about and would like to share?
Most importantly, I’m excited for debuting my red sparkly crutches when I wear my red suit to an event at uni, and there will definitely be pictures everywhere of that!
But really, I am super excited for my 3rd year shows, which will take place in Oct/Nov 2023 and Feb 2024. It will be my first time performing in a full production on crutches to an audience, which is scary but also so exciting. I am also exploring the possibility of doing a duet with another disabled performer who has recently got in contact with me after looking at videos of me dancing on my Cool Crutches on my Instagram.
A big thank you to Sophia for not only sharing her story with us but for making our crutches look SO cool. If you would like to follow Sophia as she takes the dance world by storm, please follow her @sophia.adzoa.moore.
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