“If dance is an expression of the human spirit, then it is best expressed by people of all abilities.” Such is the belief upon which Cleveland’s Dancing Wheels Company & School was founded.
The Dancing Wheels Company (founded in 1980 by Mary Verdi-Fletcher) was the first physically-integrated dance company in the United States. Featured on CNN and Good Morning America, the professional ensemble includes “stand-up” dancers and “sit-down” wheelchair dancers that perform across the country and throughout the world, traveling as far as Kraków, Poland and–more recently–Beijing, China.
According to their website, the group has performed general repertory piece concerts as well as full-length story ballets such as Alice in Wonderland, Helen Keller: A Tribute to My Teacher, Daring to be DUMBO and Babes in Toyland.
Ten years after the creation of the Dancing Wheels Company, the Dancing Wheels School opened its doors. This institution serves around 6,500 students of mixed abilities yearly, focusing on dance as not only an enjoyable physical activity but also as a form of social and personal growth. Classes include ballet, jazz funk, and hip-hop and are taught in a traditional studio space (with mirrors, barres, sound systems and dance floors) complete with wheelchair access and the resources necessary to support those with special needs.
Along with their typical classes, the school provides community outreach and school programs as well as an annual Youth Arts Camp over the summer that focuses on dance, art and theater for 3- to 14-year-olds of all abilities.
The Dancing Wheels Company itself offers a Summer Dance Intensive for those ages 15 and up. The 20-hour week includes classes in modern, ballet, wheelchair technique/partnering, improvisation/composition and repertoire. Participants have the chance to showcase all that they have learned during at an informal, intimate performance concluding the last day of the intensive.
The Dancing Wheels Company & School is a vital institution to the Cleveland area, providing those of all abilities access to the beautiful form of exercise and art that is dance. Next time they have a local performance, be sure to purchase a few tickets to experience and support their incredible work!