As many of you know, I have had the pleasure of teaching people with various disabilities to dance, having come to dance from a martial arts background where I taught self defense to people with disabilities. I’ve never taught dance to anyone in a wheelchair, but it’s a fascinating challenge. Just like anyone else, a wheelchair bound dancer needs a level of commitment and practice to gain the skills to learn to dance.
The AXIS Dance Company combines able bodied dancers with dancers in chairs in choreographed routines that showcase the unique grace of a skillfully maneuvered chair. Their work is beautiful, inspiring, and creative. Here’s an example of the wonders of this remarkable company:
AXIS is a modern dance performance company and performance dance is a very different art form than partner dance. There is a unique challenge to adapting leading and following skills to a dancer in a wheel chair, but it can be done. A modern dance performance like the one in the AXIS example is a choreographed routine. All of the dancers know their parts and memorize the routine before performing. In partner dance, the leader leads the moves and the follower does not know in advance what is going to happen at any given moment.
In this clip, the dancer is the chair is already an athlete, which gives him an edge in learning this difficult new skill. As with any other ballroom dance performance routine, it combines partner dance with choreography that is done without lead/follow connection. Watch as he demonstrates and talks about the challenges he faced and what inspired him to learn:
In this example, the follower is in the chair. It’s choreographed, so, as with the previous example, there is a lot of non-partner dance here, but you can see that there is real lead-follow connection as well. If you’re feeling impatient, the dancing starts at 1:45.
by LaurieAnn Lepoff
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