'Boundless': Women in wheelchairs find empowerment through dance at annual 'Rollettes Experience'

Chelsie Hill founded Rollettes 11 years ago after a spinal cord injury.

July 31, 2023, 10:52 PM

Chelsie Hill was just 17 when her life changed forever after suffering a spinal cord injury following a night of drinking at a party with friends.

"I had work the next morning and so I ran out to the first car I saw and my driver had been drinking. We ended up hitting a tree head on," Hill told ABC News Live.

Hill has a background in competitive dancing, and as she adjusted to her new reality as a wheelchair user, she says she wanted to meet other young women like herself. She got on social media and invited six women to her hometown of Monterey, California, to put on a performance in front of friends, family, and the local community.

Rollettes' founder Chelsie Hill is shown during an interview with ABC News.
ABC News

"So I was classified as disabled and, basically, that was going to shut the curtains and not do anything with my life. And, you know, that's why I reached out to people online, because I was like, I want so much more from my life. And I didn't know anybody with a disability at the time," Hill said.

After a weekend of dance rehearsals, bonding and sleepovers, the idea for Rollettes was born, according to the organization's website. Over a decade later, Rollettes say they are now the largest network of women with disabilities in the world.

Their annual event, the Rollettes Experience, brings together women and children with disabilities from all over the world for dance classes, makeup seminars, parties and more, Hill said.

Participants are shown during a dance class at the annual Rolletes Experience in Los Angeles.
ABC News

“I had dreams of it being big and I had a dream of seeing a bunch of women in wheelchairs dancing in a ballroom. And so being able to have our 11th year here and looking out on stage and seeing all these amazing women just dancing, it's really surreal,” Hill said.

Hill said it’s a beautiful thing to witness attendees transform into more confident versions of themselves over the course of the weekend.

New Jersey resident Marisa Giachetti, a 28-year-old participant with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, says she was drawn to what she calls a sisterhood of empowered women.

“The term the Rollettes uses, Boundless Babe, and that word boundless resonates a lot with my journey. I'm not bound to this chair. I'm boundless. And this chair is my freedom,” Giachetti said.