Dirty Dancing. Footloose. Save The Last Dance. Stories about overcoming adversity with dance are nothing new. But none of these tales compare to the real-life story of Gabe Adams. Born with Hanhart syndrome, Gabe never had arms or legs. That didn’t stop him from trying out for the dance team in high school, a decision that would change his life forever. Gabe’s awe-inspiring story is a testament to the miraculous achievements that can be attained with love, support, and determination.
Born With Hanhart Syndrome
Gabe Adams was born in São Paulo, Brazil, to a woman who had no idea how to handle her newborn’s condition. The adorable baby was missing both arms and legs, so his desperate mother decided to leave him at a hospital.
The doctors discovered that he had Hanhart syndrome, a rare condition characterized by an underdeveloped mouth and/or limbs. In Gabe’s case, his face was fully formed and cute as a button. It was his missing arms and legs that presented a challenge.
Discovering His True Mother
Born to unwilling biological parents, Gabe ended up in an orphanage. Miraculously, the story of this baby born without limbs made its way to the United States. It was at a supermarket in Utah that Janelle Adams saw a picture of her future son.
She told Today, “We had our concerns, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the sweet little boy so far away without arms, legs, or a family.” Janelle and her husband decided they needed to step in and make a change in Gabe’s life.
Growing Up With Supportive Parents
Gabe’s circumstances completely turned around when Janelle and Ron decided to make Gabe their own. They adopted him as an infant, at which point he was brought overseas to their home in Kaysville, Utah.
Gabe told Today, “I wouldn’t have been able to do anything without my parents. They gave me the chance to find out what I love.” With a loving and supportive family by his side, Gabe was able to overcome any obstacles that got in his way.
He Had More Than A Dozen Loving Siblings
Gabe went from having no family to having not only two supportive parents, but also 13 siblings! The children treated Gabe like he was no different, embracing him as their beloved brother.
One of his brothers is only a month younger than Gabe, so he was always surrounded by his siblings at school. Still, life outside the home was challenging. Kids picked on him and Gabe decided to transfer schools to get away from the hassling.
Discovering His Love For Dance
Gabe found an emotional outlet in dance. Though dancing without limbs seems impossible, his parents raised him to know better. Their top priority was raising Gabe to be independent. Gabe said that some of his proudest moments were learning to walk, dress, text, and take notes in class, all without help.
Gabe’s drive and passion led to him receiving a standing ovation at his 7th-grade talent show. The praise motivated him to keep dancing.
Wanting To Stick With His Brother
After taking some time away from his old public school, Gabe decided it was time to go back. He told his parents that he would return to the school his sophomore year because he wanted to be with his closest-in-age brother, Landon.
Gabe said that his time away from public school gave him the opportunity to build up self-esteem and discover himself. He returned with brand new confidence and was determined to pursue his love and talent for dance.
Auditioning For The Dance Team
Since Gabe relied on a wheelchair at school, he wanted to participate in an activity where he could move around. He decided to take a dance class, and it was there a friend suggested that he audition for the school’s dance team.
Gabe was terrified that the dance coach was only going to put him on the team because of his disability. He begged her not to let him in out of pity. She replied, “I would not put you or anybody else on the team because I felt sorry for them, you get a spot on this team because you deserved it.”
Being Part Of A Team
Gabe joined 28 girls on the dance team. Though he was nervous at first, the experience proved to be incredibly positive. Gabe said, “My teammates treated me like a normal person and didn’t look at my disability, just my ability to dance and be part of a team.”
As with his dance coach, the fact his team looked at him like any other student encouraged Gabe to pursue his dream like any other teen would.
Continuing To Pursue Dance
Shortly after Gabe joined his school’s dance team, his dad got a job in St. George, Utah. The entire family had to move, and Gabe’s new high school didn’t have a dance team.
Fortunately, there was a dance studio nearby that Gabe was able to join. As with his former dance team, the performers at the studio welcomed Gabe as one of their own. They can appreciate his passion, especially since he hasn’t let his condition get in the way.
Finding His Dance Style
You may be wondering, how does someone with no limbs manage to dance? In all honesty, Gabe is limited in the styles of dance he can successfully pull off. However, his condition has actually proven to be an advantage in one particular style.
When it comes to breakdancing, Gabe has an easier time maneuvering since he doesn’t have limbs getting in the way. Using his chest and core, Gabe thrusts himself to either side and can spin on his shoulders and back.
Branching Into Different Styles
Though his breakdancing is what made him a hit at high school rallies, Gabe’s favorite styles are hip hop and contemporary dance. When performing with his team, Gabe sticks to the beat, spins, pumps his chest, and keeps up with others despite his unique physique.
While Gabe can’t embellish his moves by lifting his arms or pointing his toes, he uses what he has to move with grace and intent. In his words, “I love how I’m able to express myself in so many ways through movement.”
Winning A Dance Competition
One of Gabe’s proudest moments was placing second in a dance competition. He said, “I feel completely different when I’m dancing. I’m so grateful for all the happiness that it has brought into my life.”
Even Gabe’s mom, Janelle, couldn’t believe all of the success Gabe has seen with dance. She told Today, “When we adopted Gabe, we seriously had no clue that he would ever be able to walk, let alone dance. I’m so proud of him and his bravery and willingness to try new things.”
Pushed To Be Independent
Though Janelle admits that she couldn’t have known all that Gabe would be capable of doing, it was she and her husband who pushed him to thrive. Gabe’s father, Ron, said they gave him both tough love and support to encourage him to grow his independence.
Gabe admitted, “I hated my parents for making me going through all that hard work, but now I look at them and celebrate that they pushed me to be independent and be the person that they knew I could be.”
His Graduation Dream Came True
Back when Gabe switched schools to escape his bullies, he regretted the fact he wouldn’t be able to graduate next to his brother. Though he returned to the public school, the family ultimately moved to a different city.
It was at their new high school that Gabe and his brother, Landon, graduated side by side. Their mom couldn’t have been happier to see her sons in matching cap and gowns. She glowed as they kissed her on either cheek.
Pursuing A Career In Motivational Speaking
Given his incredible journey in life, it’s no surprise that Gabe wanted to share it with others. Upon entering adulthood, Gabe discovered his calling in life. While he still loves to dance, he decided that his career should be as a motivational speaker.
With all of the struggles Gabe had to overcome due to lacking arms and legs, he knows better than most what it takes to get motivated. His parents gave him the encouragement he needed, and now Gabe can pass that support and wisdom on to others.
Becoming Widely Known
Gabe’s story has become so widespread that talk shows began inviting him to speak. Shortly after winning his dance competition, Gabe appeared on Maury Povich’s show. Here he is pictured on “The Adam Carolla Show,” a popular podcast.
Appearing on podcasts has a unique advantage for Gabe since the audience can’t see his missing limbs, so they can focus in on what he’s saying. At the same time, seeing Gabe’s condition makes what he says all the more incredible.
Meeting His Dance Idol
Becoming well-known has offered Gabe many life-changing opportunities that he could not have expected. One of his most prized moments was getting to meet Derek Hough, the performer posing with Gabe in this photo.
You may recognize Derek from the famous shows Dancing With The Stars and The World of Dance. The dancer/choreographer has found heaps of success both on and off the screen, but even he has something to learn from Gabe’s remarkable journey.
Strutting It On The Runway
Gabe returned to the stage in 2019. This time, he wasn’t dancing, but was strutting down the runway. Gabe flew across the country to New York to participate in the Runway of Dreams Foundation fashion show.
The organization supports people with special needs by breaking down stereotypes and promoting more widespread availability of adaptive clothing. Gabe’s participation went to show that anyone can sport fashion and look fabulous on the runway. Furthermore, he traveled on his own to prove to himself and his loved ones that he can be independent.
Becoming An Uncle
Having tons of loving siblings has afforded Gabe a huge and ever-growing family. He’s since become an uncle to an adorable girl. The pair love to take pictures together, which he shares on his social media.
Though Gabe has redirected his focus toward motivational speaking, we’re sure he has a move or two he could teach his nieces and nephews. After all, when it comes to having a cool uncle, Gabe probably takes the cake.
Finding Love And Music
While having a loving family and an impactful career is incredible, nothing compares to finding that special someone. Now a young man, Gabe is enjoying sharing his life with his partner, Adam Wheatley.
If living a life full of love and independence wasn’t enough, Gabe has also embarked on another one of his passions: music. He collaborated with musician Joe West to write and produce the single “The Best Part Of You,” now available on iTunes, Spotify, and more.