ARTICLES Boston dance supports Girls Chronically Rock: Continued connections

If any average person were to imagine a dancer, the “diva” cliché may come to mind – self-centered, self-interested and self-aggrandizing. Yet, time and time again, dancers and dance organizations defy this stereotype by giving back (locally or toward more widespread charitable efforts). Dance art can be a platform for raising funds, awareness, community and solidarity around a particular issue.

Girls Chronically Rock. Photo by Bill Parsons.

Ballet artists Janelle Gilchrist and Rick Vigo, along with dance photographer Bill Parsons and the dance collective The Dance Complex, offered time and talent in this way toward Girls Chronically Rock (GCR). GCR is a fashion LLC focusing on destigmatizing chronic illness and disability, offering a platform for women with chronic illness or disability to share their stories, and supporting these women in the ways they may need it.

Dance Informa spoke with Keisha Greaves, GCR founder and director, to learn more about her mission and alliances with Boston dance. Greaves started GCR when she was finally ready to speak out about her diagnosis of Muscular Dystrophy, as a means to help improve the lives of people like her living with disability or chronic illness.

This past July 1 and 15, Greaves, Parsons and the two ballet dancers shot photos with Girls Chronically Rock shirts. Also modeling were a few friends of Greaves who are wheelchair users. Thus, the photo project embraced models at all levels of mobility and physical ability.

Those participants posted teaser photos on social media with hashtags like “#mydisabilitydoesntdefineme” and “#doesmywheelchairmakemybuttlookbig”.

Such messages are both witty and challenge social conventions of “otherness” around disability.

Girls Chronically Rock. Photo by Bill Parsons.

On July 1, the group shot above a set of railroad tracks (given challenges with getting down stairs to the tracks with the wheelchairs), as well as in Graffiti Alley (a fully-painted alley in Cambridge’s Central Square). On July 15, they shot in a studio at The Dance Complex (also in Central Square). The organization donated space to the effort. Models wore Girls Chronically Rock shirts, all Greaves’s designs. The photos will be released soon on social media as part of a GCR marketing campaign.

Greaves is savvy in general when it comes to social media marketing for her designs, which also include jewelery with positive messages inscribed. She hopes to soon expand her line with more shirts proclaiming positive, inspirational messages around disability and chronic illness. T-shirt designs currently include the phrases “Chronically dope” and “Embrace your dopeness”. “I always tag Target and fashion magazines where I’d love to see my designs sold,” Greaves reveals. She’s also mindful about smart hashtag use.

Dancer Janelle Gilchrist. Photo by Olivia Blaisdell.

Greaves additionally uses Instagram’s “story” function two to three times daily, to keep followers updated on what’s happening with her and GCR. She also makes sure to update links in her bio to include those that are currently most meaningful. These seem to be key social media strategies for dancers and dancemakers as well!

Greaves hopes to continue doing shoots. What might she have learned from these shoots, her first ever for GCR? “I think I can organize and plan out shoots a bit more beforehand,” she says, although explaining that all did go fairly smoothly with these two shoots.

Greaves also hopes to work herself into the podcasting and blogging worlds – of course spreading the word about these offerings through her social media know-how. Another idea she’s excited about is a  documentary series about the everyday lives of herself and her friends living with disability and chronic illness.

Keisha Greaves, founder of Girls Chronically Rock. Photo by Bill Parsons.

As another dance world connection, Greaves says she might also someday collaborate with Boston’s Abilities Dance. For Greaves, the company’s Founder and Director Ellice Patterson is a friend and ally in efforts to raise disability/chronic illness awareness and lower the stigma around these conditions. It’s one more example of how dancers, dancemakers and dance entities can be part of efforts to make the world a more inclusive and more just place, one issue and one community at a time.

Follow Girls Chronically Rock on Twitter and on Instagram.

By Kathryn Boland of Dance Informa.

My disability does not define me!!

I had such a blast doing this photoshoot with the girls. I wanted to do something positive and also creative with writings on my body with different myths and sayings people with disabilities sometimes face on a daily basis. My disability does not define me of who I am. I am human with all kinds of emotions and abilities. “My Ability is Stronger that my Disability” 💪🏽🙌🏾❤️. 📸 photo credit: Olivia Blaisdell Photography / halfasianlens”. @halfasianlens

What it’s like Being a Business Owner with a Chronic Illness

“What it’s like Being a Business Owner with a Chronic Illness” By Keisha Greaves


My life has been a roller-coaster ride at times much like yours, I’m sure. Expectations, responsibilities, and everyday pressures can take a toll on anyone. Imagine dealing with the normal everyday stress of life while trying to build a business and balance having a chronic illness like Muscular Dystrophy (MD).
When someone without a chronic illness wakes up to the buzz of their second (or maybe third) alarm in the morning, a lot of thoughts may be running through their head.
Is it 7:00AM already? Do I really need to go to work today? Can’t I just lay here for another 10 minutes and still make it to work on time?
My thoughts look at a little different:
Will I be able to get out the bed without falling today?
Will I have the energy to attempt to tackle my to-do list?
How long can I actually work today before I start to experience pain?
That’s what it’s like to wake up with MD. It’s a never-ending round of questions that can alter the flow, productivity and course of my day. Not only does it make everyday life a challenge, it also affects my business.
Will I have the energy to send this email today?
What physical challenge will I face today?
All these questions and more are constantly flowing through my mind, and can seem a little deflating at times, but what good story is absent of any struggles? My villain just happens to be MD, and the hero happens to be me. If you are living with a chronic illness of any type, I want to encourage you to keep pushing forward, especially if you have dreams or are in the process of creating your own business or brand.
Having this passion project gives me the motivation and purpose I need to get up every morning and find a way to get things done. Even if only one or two things get done from my list, I make sure I put what energy I am able to muster into getting those things completed. When I have the strength and opportunity to go out and share my Girls Chronically Rock brand with the world, it gives me a sense of fulfillment and purpose that I wouldn’t be able to achieve if I didn’t fight to get out of the bed every morning.

I won’t let MD stop me from reaching my goals and pursuing my purpose and neither should you.
Here are a few tips I want to share as a business owner with a chronic illness that I hope will encourage those who may be battling the same:
1. Have something that keeps you sane. When I can’t find the strength to do work or when I just need to get my mind off of everyday life, I watch my favorite shows. DVR is the BEST thing to ever happen to me (any Love & Hip Hop or Jane the Virgin fans out there). I get excited to catch up on my favorite series and having this outlet helps me remain balanced and upbeat when not working on my business. Find that one thing you love to watch, play or enjoy that helps you unwind and relax.
2. Have goals for your business that you follow. I have dreams for bigger and better for my business. One day, I d’ love to see the GCR brand in Target and bigger department stores, but that dream isn’t going to happen overnight. I have to continue to plan, evaluate, network and put myself and my brand out there in order to reach the right people and make the right connections. Battling a chronic illness is not knowing what happens next. I am always hoping for the best and having goals to keep my focused on the future are key to growing and developing a business. Make a vision board for your business and look at it every day to inspire you to dream bigger, work harder and aim for the moon (you’ll fall among the stars).
3. Have a Plan for Your Slower Days. I am queen of the to-do list. I’ve been super organized since being a little girl (just ask my mom), and I take pride in having a strategy for what’s next. You have to have a plan A and plan B for the days when you literally can’t make it out of the bed, or if you’re like me, you have leg or back pain that prevents you from sitting up or being in a comfortable working position. Make a plan that can be done in any state you may be in. Your future self will thank you.
4. Know When You Need to Just Rest (and be ok with it). Sometimes, the activities from the day prior can influence the degree of energy I have for the following day. I can’t control what my body wants to do – like anybody, but with a chronic illness it can be even more of a challenge. So, don’t fret about taking an hour, day or two in order to get your strength back. Sometimes, one productive day can get the same results of having a few hours here and there throughout the week. Work a few rest times and even days into your schedule to make it feel less like a day wasted. A day rested is another day of strength gained.
No matter where you stand when it comes to chronic illness or starting a business, you have the ability to pursue your dreams and live your best life. Take these notes, make them your own and remember that chronic illness is just a chapter of your life. There is still so much more left inside of you and so much more to your story. Dream big!

Keisha Headshot wordpress


Put Out the Fires of Muscular Dystrophy

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They came from Cambridge, Boston, Somerville, all over Connecticut and beyond to ring the alarm for Muscular Dystrophy (MD) research, equipment, and camp tuition.

They put out fires big and small and save lives on so many levels for which I am eternally grateful. Who are these hometown heroes?

They are the local firefighters in my community who come together to support organizations like the Muscular Dystrophy Association(MDA) and individuals like me to join me in the fight to raise awareness, spread knowledge and encourage others to keep fighting similar battles with MD.

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I first met these amazing men and women who serve as firefighters in my community after being invited to share my story in 2017, at their annual planning boot camp at the Mohegan Sun Casino. Every year, over 300 firefighters come to plan, strategize and get refreshed to tackle fundraising for the MDA and MD community. Since then, I  have made so many strong connections with the fire fighters I have met over time and hope to continue to build that strong foundation with them throughout the year. 

Past fundraising efforts have included golf tournaments, auctions, “fill-the-boot” street petitions and many different activities to make one big effort to support the MD community and needs. In addition to fundraisers, every year the local firefighters visit the Muscular Dystrophy Association Summer Camp to spend time with the kids and facilitate a variety of fun activities with the campers. 




What the firefighters continue to do for me and for the many others battling MD continues to change lives one boot, golf club and event at a time. 

Once that alarm goes off at the firehouse, the firefighters don’t know what type of situation they are going to, and I admire and appreciate them for that. They are strong, powerful and brave to put other lives before theirs.

Words can’t describe how blessed and honored I feel to be supported by my local fire station. Between saving lives and having lives of their own, each firefighter has made it his/her mission to help support individuals and the larger community of men, women and children who are battling MD. I will never forget what they have done for me, what they continue to do and the level of commitment and compassion they share with the MD community.

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If you haven’t already, connect with your local firefighter chapter to see what causes they support and find ways to support them. Changing MD and other chronic illnesses is not a single person’s or single organization’s burden to carry. Doing what it takes to make a difference takes a community – a community of friends, organizations or a group of dedicated, compassionate group of local firefighters.

Let’s put out the fires of MD together.

To learn more about the Firefighter’s and what they do for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and fundraising activities, click here.

Partner with Purpose: Girls Night Out Fundraiser

This month has been an AMAZING opportunity to not only participate in events with my favorite organization, but also to plan and rollout my own events to further promote the causes I support and spread the word about the Girls Chronically Rock clothing line takeover!

One of those events was the Girls Night Fundraiser I put on in partnership with Jaclyn Zuke of Next on Scene. The event was held at our local fave, Papa Gayo restaurant and served as the first of many Girls Chronically Rock (GCR) pop-up shops I am planning for this summer. At the event, I was able to connect with new faces, share more about my story and the inspiration behind GCR clothing line. It was an opportunity for me to try something new and partner with another Bostonite and womanprenuer to see our dreams come to fruition, and in one night almost everyone walked away with a GCR purchase. This event was a both a success and learning experience for me and I want to share a few nuggets of wisdom for my fellow womanpreneur-in-the-making GCR sisters.

Planning Process:

I knew I wanted to fundraise and bring awareness to GCR so I kept my eyes peeled for possible connections. It was through the Boston Business Women Facebook Group that I met and connected with Jaclyn which later grew into our partnership for the event. I formed a relationship with Jaclyn after emailing her and later being  featured on her podcast. After completing the show (January), we remained connected to eventually partner together. Our relationship wasn’t just business, we both genuinely cared about each other’s goals and dreams wanted to do everything would could to help one another succeed. She encouraged me to develop my brand by starting a podcast and since working together on the Girls Night Out Event, we continue to reach out and invite each other to events that can create opportunities for our businesses and network. I challenge you to do something for your business/brand today. Find a facebook group and be committed to showing up. Look for a local meetup or event where you can network and spread the word about your brand. Get started today!

Big Lessons Learned:

Of course, every new endeavor we take on will have a learning curve. Doing my own event taught me the importance of advertising, advertising and more advertising. Possible customers only know about what they know about. Making more of an intentional and widespread effort is key to making sure your event is getting in front of new eyes. Continue to dig into your resources and exhaust all of the free options like social media, email and word-of-mouth before moving to paid options. I had the benefit of having a lot of family and friends involved, but there were still more people in my circle/community who I could have contacted and asked to help me out in my efforts to spread the word. Don’t be afraid to tell the people around you about what you’re doing. Let them know that they too can be a part of the movement you’re creating and get involved.

Business Lessons:

The exciting thing about my event was that almost everyone bought some GCR gear. The lesson I learned was that I could be more efficient in getting my customers the information they needed by having a pricing sheet on every display to help customers decide what they want to purchase. Give your customer all the information they will need to make a purchase decision. Another piece of advice is to pay attention to what products/items really sell. Whether it was my GCR hats or the tote that I’m working on, knowing what customers like is crucial to creating more products that my community loves. Having a team of creative and innovative volunteers and paid service providers can sometimes be the difference between a seamless experience and the cloud of stress that can come with doing everything yourself. A huge part of my event success was based on the fact that Jaclyn handled everything event coordination and PR related which freed me up to focus on my products and connecting with my attendees. As I think about how to level up from here, I have my sights set on doing more GCR pop-ups (in a city near you), sharing my story with more people through speaking engagements and partnering with some of my favorite organizations to help spread awareness about chronic illnesses like MD and to further promote and build the GCR community of strong, empowered and purpose filled women.

Working on your goals and dreams:

When it comes to pursuing your goals and dreams, just go for it! My journey is still new and I have a lot to learn, but I’ve already tackled the biggest obstacle of starting. If you have a goal or ambition you want to focus on, get started today.

We may not have the time, money, or energy but with the help of our families, friends and local (and virtual) community, you will find yourself living out your dream one milestone at a time.  

Let people know the gist (not everything) about your idea and see what people say.

Before you know it, you’ll have your business. Keep you eyes open.  Expand your network. Go for it.

What’s the last step you made towards your goal?

Comment in the section below.