But Haslet-Davis, a professional dancer, took the stage at the TED conference in Vancouver Wednesday and danced the rumba.
Haslet-Davis wore a prosthetic limb specially designed for her by MIT Media Lab director of biometrics Hugh Herr, himself a double amputee since a climbing accident in 1982. Herr was at the conference to present the work of his team and unveil the limb for the first time.
“After meeting her [at the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital] I was driving home and I thought, ‘Well gosh, I’m an MIT professor, why not build her a bionic limb to allow her to dance?’" Herr recalled. "So I put together MIT scientists with expertise in prosthetics, robotics, machine-learning, bio-mechanics, and off we went.”
“We brought in dancers with biological limbs that were a similar size and weight,” Herr said. “And we studied, using all of our equipment, how they moved and the forces they applied on the dance floor and analyzed those data. It took many, many months, but here we are.”
For Haslet-Davis, the moment comes with a fair share of trepidation, as well as excitement.
“I’m very nervous to dance on stage again, but I have said from the beginning that I don’t like to be called a victim," she said. "I like to be called a survivor, because a victim is someone that still belongs to the crime, and I am not going to be defined by that."
"I want to be defined by how I live my life, and how I live my life is wanting to go out there and conquer fear," she said. "So I’ll get out on that stage and hopefully nail it, and if not I’ll be stronger next time.”
And that next time is already in the works: Haslet-Davis is scheduled to make an appearance on Dancing With the Stars sometime this season.