NEW YORK — Samantha Diaz is mesmerizing when she dances, and when she adds the element of fire? It’s a breathtaking display.
The passionate teacher and performer has been entrancing crowds for about 20 years, until a performance went horribly wrong.
“My hands were all bloody. My skin was all melted,” Diaz recalled about the December incident.
The alcohol she was using backstage to re-fuel the torches for her show exploded.
Her silky costume, hair, skin were all caught. “Almost 40% of my body got burned.”
After six weeks bedridden in the Weill Cornell Burn Unit, she is back home, surrounded by the angels caring for her.
She wants to show her healing progress, and begins slowly removing the compression garments that are a part of that.
Diaz is being fitted for a garment that will be worn 23 hours a day for a full year.
She peeled back the fingerless gloves protecting her hands. Then she gestures at where the fire wounded her in an instant.
“The whole of the front of me and the left side,” she said.
Burned on the front, skin grafts harvested from her back.
Her entire body has been through trauma. It’s expected she’ll need up to two years to fully recover.
The dance community has surrounded her with love donating to her GoFundMe since she has minimal insurance, and incredible bills and expenses.
Long time friend and fellow dancer Valerie Levine was on stage with her the day she was burned.
“She could have lost her life. It was one of the scariest moment of both our lives.”
Her sister and friends help her at home. Weekly rehab has her stretching and moving her limbs trying to get flexibility back into her taut new skin.
Four surgeries — on both legs and arms used skin that was harvested in grafts from her back.
Yet there is significant healing and worries ahead as she is the main support for four generations of women and children in her family through her successful dance company, teaching classes and performing.
And all of that has stopped, but Samantha’s optimism is as beautiful as her dance, which she is determined to get back to.
Likely it will be two years before she can.
“I really want to start a new life with all of this. This new me,” she says.
Incredibly a twinkle appears in her eyes. A little mischievous glow. “I'll still rock my belly dance costume. My new look. I'll put some glitter on it!!”