Dancing Wheels Company’s “Lasting Legacy” Concert & Tour to Commemorate Two National Anniversaries


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By Michael Bargas

On October 10, 2015, The Dancing Wheels Company will present a world premiere concert commemorating the 35th anniversary of America’s first and foremost Physically Integrated Dance Company and the 25thanniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); the iconic law that changed the face of equality for persons with disabilities throughout the Unites States.

The “Lasting Legacy” concert, which will be presented in the Allen Theatre at Playhouse Square (7:30 p.m.), will give homage to this historic law by reflecting on the five core themes of the ADA: employment, education, transportation, communication and public access.  Choreographers Heidi Latsky, Sarah Swenson, Mark Tomasic, Dianne McIntyre, David Rousseve and Catherine Meredith were chosen from a nationwide search to create works that portray the history, evolution, and the importance of each theme in their own creative and impactful approaches.  “Each choreographer utilized unique methodologies to bring to the forefront the essence of the law, drawing inspiration from the theme itself or a personal historic memory,” said Mary Verdi-Fletcher, President/Founding Artistic Director of the Dancing Wheels Company & School.

About the Choreographers:

Sarah Swenson, international artist and Artistic Director of VOX Dance, brought to life the “Capital Crawl” in “Clamor” which she dedicated to the memory of Kenneth Irving Zola (1935 to 1994), an early disability rights activist, proponent of Independent Living, prominent advocate for the ADA, and dear family friend.  Her inspiration for this work was Zola’s participation in the “Capitol Crawl.”  This act of civil disobedience helped propel the passage of the ADA.  Ms. Swenson created this work to an original score created by Alessandro Girasoli, a composer and multi-instrumentalist and expert on the folk music of southern Italy where he resides.

Mark Tomasic is a choreographer and educator residing in Los Angeles, California.  His choreographic works have been performed and acclaim throughout the country.  Mr. Tomasic has served as the Dancing Wheels Company’s Artistic Advisor for the past five years and has created three previous works on the Company that are among the favorites in their extensive repertory.  His theatrical, explosive movement vocabulary is on full display in “Going Up,” a work of Dance Theater set in an imaginary elevator.  With each new floor the elevator reaches, riders and audience members come face-to-face with stereotypes and obstacles people with disabilities encounter daily.  Personal stories reveal universal truths via live and recorded text fused with a divergent range of music from EDM artist Judson Mohawke to Puccini to Antônio Carlos Jobim.

Heidi Latsky, former Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company member, is now a New York City based choreographer who is best known for her award-winning production of “Gimp.”  Her work is dedicated to redefining beauty by emphasizing differences and honing the unique attributes of the dancers through juxtaposition and counterpoint.

For this concert, Ms. Latsky chose to restage an excerpt from “Interlude” one of her most personal and meaningful pieces which started as an expression of her journey of grief after her father passed away suddenly last summer.  The work evolved into an abstract piece investigating the juxtaposition of dynamic music with stillness, contained movement versus traveling fluid movement and soloists versus the group.  In this piece, her exploration of loss often equates to the initial losses felt by physical or emotional trauma onset of an accident or injury.  Ms. Latsky chose Judy Garland’s rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” which was representative of her emotional state of grief and recovery.

Dianne McIntyre and David Rousseve, two incredibly gifted and nationally acclaimed choreographers and directors, agreed to collaborate by blending excerpts of their individual pieces created on the Dancing Wheels Company for two previous anniversaries.  Mr. Rousseve’s 25th anniversary premiere of “Walking on Clouds” reflected on the quest for equality by African American and disabled rights advocates.  The piece reenacts such scenes as the capturing of city busses to bring about full and equal access to public transportation.  Ms. McIntyre’s 30th anniversary dance-theater work “Dancing on a Dream” tells the real life story of President/Founding Artistic Director Mary Verdi-Fletcher.  “Many people do not know my life as an advocate and are not aware of the amount of hard work required from a disabled activist to make our communities accessible for everyone,” stated Ms. Verdi-Fletcher.  “Dancing on a Dream” reveals a time in her life where disabled advocates took to the streets with picket signs and demonstrated to make mainline transportation accessible.  She thought it appropriate and interesting to blend the two excerpts together with Ms. McIntyre’s influence in the melding process for the piece now entitled “The Quest for Equality.”

Catherine Meredith, Rehearsal Director for the Dancing Wheels Company, came to Cleveland from New York City where she danced with Cortez and Company.  She followed Hernando Cortez to Cleveland to help evolve the Cleveland Repertory Company into the now Verb Ballets.  Ohio Northern University, Verb Ballets, The University of Akron, and The Institute have all commissioned her choreography.   With a master’s degree in dance and an interest in integrated dance Ms. Meredith has created two full length works for the Dancing Wheels Company including the 2014 world premiere of “Babes in Toyland,” a delightful animated mixed medium of dance, theater and video production.   For this concert she took on the theme of communication with “Incommunicado,” a piece centered on the rights for persons with disabilities to have equal access to effective communication.  Audiences will share in a sensorial experience as they bear witness to what can happen when such access is denied.  Individual stories are told through technically driven movement and partnering in a series of duets, trios, and solos.  Global Communication, using electronic music, provides the sound score.

In addition to these new company works, the Dancing Wheels School will showcase a piece choreographed by Emma Parker for the School’s Performance Ensemble.  The Ensemble is comprised of their own students as well as students from the School’s outreach activities.  The children have studied the five themes of the ADA over the past few months and are able to integrate their own perceptions and artistic personalities into the piece with the guidance of School Coordinator, Ms. Parker.

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About the Company:

The Company now celebrating its 35th anniversary season under the Artistic Direction of Mary Verdi-Fletcher, its founder, is Cleveland’s longest running dance company.  Maintaining a full time ensemble of dancers, the Company tours throughout the United States and abroad reaching more than 30,000 people in over 75 performances each year.  The Dancing Wheels Company members are Kelly Clymer, Antonio DeBerry, Tanya Ewell, Rebecca Fleisher, Kevin Marr, Demarco Sleeper, Sara Lawrence-Sucato (Dance Captain), Mary Verdi-Fletcher, Lianne Zdydowicz, and apprentices Kristen Knabel and Ja’Vaughn White.  Also joining the Company this year are apprentices Emily Schwarting, and Colin Cedric Bolthouse.

About the Tour:

Almost immediately following the Cleveland premiere, the Company will begin a nationwide tour that will continue throughout its 2015/16 season with a goal of performing in 35 universities, performing arts facilities and VSA organizations as part of their community recognition of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Although the official ADA’s anniversary was in July 2015, the issues and lasting impressions of this law is meant to be in the forefront of the minds and hearts of all Americans beyond its 25 years and the works in this concert will be certain to make it a “Lasting Legacy.”

Ticket Information:

VIP seats are $50 and include a celebratory after party with the choreographers and Company members. General admission tickets are $35 and groups of 10 or more are $17 per person.  For details on the celebratory after party or to purchase tickets through the Dancing Wheels’ office, please visit www.dancingwheels.org or call (216) 432-0306.  Tickets are also available through the Playhouse Square box office at www.playhousesquare.org or by calling (216) 241-6000.  Follow the Dancing Wheels Company & School on Facebook.com/DancingWheels and Twitter.com/DancingWheels.

Sponsors:

The Lasting Legacy Concert & Tour is made possible through the generous support from the following funders:  Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, Cleveland Foundation, Ohio Arts Council, The George Gund Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, The Kuhn Family Foundation, and Kulas Foundation.

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