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After a devastating injury, she's ready to return to the dance floor

After a devastating injury, she's ready to return to the dance floor
Posted at 9:03 PM, Mar 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-16 21:03:02-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- The first National Day of Salsa will make its debut in Richmond in a few weeks. One dancer said she is ready to come out of the darkness to dance again after a major injury.

"I've truly been dancing my whole life."

When Tanika Santos MacSwain dances, you don’t see the pain she’s been through.

"It's just like a higher expression of who we are," MacSwain said.

You could say that dance is in her DNA.

"I would say the rhythm's pretty natural. I'm half Peruvian. I've always found that when the beat is going on, I want to move to it so I would say it's pretty natural," MacSwain said.

But what happened to her a year ago was far from natural.

"While I was at the University of Kentucky getting my master's in health promotion, I was playing in an indoor soccer league. I took a single step with my left foot and then my right foot just popped and I felt the whole world freeze. Took a step and it was like there was no air, no heel nothing behind my foot and drop right down," MacSwain said

Where there should have been an Achilles, there was a pocket of space. It was a complete tear of her Achilles tendon. The injury crippled the active player for months.

"And so part of the tendon rolled up, towards the calf and so basically what they had to do was go in pull them back together and sew them back together," MacSwain said

Her recovery process was slow.

"I started off with a cast in a wheelchair for a while, that was about two weeks. And then moving out of the cast into a boot, non-weight bearing, and lots of physical therapy," MacSwain said.

After a devastating injury, she's ready to return to the dance floor

Her years of fitness training kicked in.

"I'm definitely someone who has that mentality of if I want to get better, I have to put in the work. When you're spending 10 to 20 hours a week moving, it was really difficult to have to sit down," MacSwain said

Yet she pushed through her pain with caution.

"I will say if you don't give back to your body, it will force you to sit down and pay attention to those smaller things. In time, I was able to get back to what I’m doing now. Overall, I think I never really stop dancing even when I was in the wheelchair. I was still moving my upper body as much as I could," MacSwain said

Her recovery was one filled with emotion where music and dance played a key role.

"So there were days where yeah, I was in tears. I think that's where music was a really big part of my recovery process, as well. I’ve said that it was a reminder that I can still dance in the darkness," MacSwain said

At the end of the darkness was light. MacSwain started dancing again and is set to perform in the first National Day of Salsa, a worldwide event making that is making its debut in Richmond at HardyWood Park Craft Brewery.

The event, organized by William Estramera and Angel Rodriguez, the Salsa Guy, is for lovers of salsa dancing and is for amateur dancers who want to compete.

"We want people that are just been taking lessons for a while they've been going out dancing and enjoying themselves to have a chance to have a lot of fun and make a little money," MacSwain said

There will be dance competitions, performances and a special honor for DJ El Duro, a beloved DJ who passed away from COVID.

"The multi-cultural-ness of this city, this state is so awesome that we want to be able to have an opportunity to unite everybody and just enjoy one night," MacSwain said

Grateful that she’s dancing better than before, MacSwain is looking forward to as she calls it “joyful movement.”

"Even when we’re not doing it perfectly, it just feels good to know that I can and so that constant reminder just makes everything feel a little bit more special," MacSwain said

The first National Day of Salsa is March 26. Those who are interested in participating have until March 18 to register.