Dancing Wheels
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Dancing Wheels

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The best kept secret in music


"Dancing Wheels unveils three premieres, successful collaboration with Minneapolis troupe"

Dancing Wheels/Stuart Pimsler Dance & Theater
Cuyahoga Community College's Eastern Campus Performing Arts Center
Saturday, April 26
Dancers face challenges whenever they enter a studio or a stage. For Dancing Wheels, the Cleveland company for dancers with and without disabilities, the current season has overflowed with artistic stretches.

The troupe spent much of the year honing three new works by prominent guest choreographers. All of the pieces received their premieres Saturday at Cuyahoga Community College's Eastern Campus Performing Arts Center in a joint program with the Minneapolis-based Stuart Pimsler Dance & Theater.

It was an exhilarating evening, especially when the companies joined forces at the end to perform Pimsler's witty, compassionate "Big Trucks and Leverage," a work exploring hazards everyone -- disabled or not -- faces on a daily basis.

The first image is a dancer in a wheelchair confronting a formidable barrier: a long swath of fabric that can't be penetrated. As the cast of 18 assembles, the sit-down and stand-up dancers tackle other obstacles, including individual impediments.

"It's all about the balance," says Mary Verdi-Fletcher, artistic director of Dancing Wheels, as colleagues keel over in wheelchairs or slip off folding chairs.

Pimsler's art melds dance, narration and striking theatrical imagery. Set largely to accordion music, "Big Trucks and Leverage" sends the dancers through high-energy patterns and whimsical gestures of frustration.

The combined companies function as a seamless ensemble, and the wheelchairs and folding chairs are integrated so naturally that you wonder how much more inventiveness Pimsler can pull from his choreographic hat.

Another creative bounty can be seen in Dianne McIntyre's "Sweet Radio Radicals," in which five Dancing Wheels women respond to popular songs from the 1920s to the 1970s played on radio. The seven episodes comprise hot-blooded and impish solos, duets and ensemble pieces that keep the joint jumping.

Verdi-Fletcher and Dezare Foster performed a buoyant duo to music sung by Mahalia Jackson, while Sara Lawrence was a firebrand in a piece performed by Etta James & the Peaches. A Buffy Sainte-Marie anti-war song found the ensemble prostrate at the end. Jenny Sikora made a smooth thing of her wheelchair solo set to a Dolly Parton tune.

The third world premiere was Nai-Ni Chen's "Unconquered Warriors," a blend of rapid-fire wheelchair figurations, whiplash fan gestures and martial-arts material. The dancers, dressed in ritualistic blue and silver costumes, move to a Glen Valez score of drum music and vocals.

The movement is fierce, suggesting the theme of warriors determined to surmount any hurdle. But it ends too abruptly, with little sense of closure. The six Dancing Wheels performers gave the piece a bold account.

The Minneapolis troupe was on its own in Pimsler's "Ways to Be Hold," a searing portrait of empowerment, fear and struggle set to elegiac music by Russ Edwards. A speaker, Tiyo Siyolo, relates the metaphoric need to hold onto an old coat. After the dancers shed fabric coats, they reach out, carry one another, collapse, resist and return in plastic coats, which they discard.

An intensely fascinating and disturbing experience, it was danced with generous flair by the exceptional Pimsler company.
- Cleveland Plain Dealer



Title: Above
Choreographer: Daniel Job
Duration: 8 minutes
Music: Samuel Barber

Title: a wing/a prayer
Choreographer: Mark Tomasic
Duration: 12 minutes
Music: Afro Celt Sound System

Title: Big Trucks and Leverage
Choreographer: Stuart Pimsler
Duration: 23 minutes
Music: Benni Hemm Hemm/Text Recordings

Title: Echoes of An Angel’s Fall
Choreographer: Rebecca Anderson Darling, Pilobolus
Duration: 23 minutes
Music: Moby/Penguin Café Orchestra/Jeff Buckley/Radiohead/Isan

Title: Egress
Choreographer: Sabatino Verlezza
Duration: 10 minutes
Music: Mike Oldfield, Ludwig van Beethoven

Title: Extreme
Choreographer: Isaah Henderson
Duration: 4 minutes
Music: NOFX

Title: Fly
Choreographer: Keith Young
Duration: 10 minutes
Music: R. Kelly

Title: Gypsy
Choreographer: Todd Goodman
Duration: 10 minutes
Music: Gipsy Kings and Alebenez

Title: Icarus
Choreographer: Sabatino Verlezza
Duration: 20 minutes
Music: Alessandra Belloni, John La Barbera

Title: Just Being
Choreographer: Bethany Prater
Duration: 5 minutes
Music: Isaac Albenez

Title: Mayring
Choreographer: Sabatino Verlezza
Duration: 12 minutes
Music: Stewart/Lennox, Lennon-McCartney

Title: Passing
Choreographer: Rosalind Newman
Duration: 8 minutes
Music: Arvo Part

Title: Promise Her Anything
Choreographer: Hernando Cortez
Duration: 12 minutes
Music: Burt Bacharach

Title: Sat Sang
Choreographer: Tom Evert
Duration: 8 minutes
Music: Philip Glass, Ravi Shankar, and Mychael Danna

Title: State of Mine/Mind
Choreographer: Young Park
Duration: 18 minutes
Music: Various Artists

Title: Sweet Radio Radicals
Choreographer: Dianne McIntyre
Duration: 18 minutes
Music: The Carter Family, Mahalia Jackson, Etta James, Dolly Parton, Janis Joplin, Gladys Knight

Title: Take the “A”Train
Choreographer: Sabatino Verlezza
Duration: 6 minutes
Music: Duke Ellington

Title: Time Spent
Choreographer: Michael Metcalf
Duration: 15 minutes
Music: Soundtrack of “Scent of a Woman”

Title: Unconquered Warriors
Choreographer: Nai Ni Chen
Duration: 15 minutes
Music: Glen Velez

Title: Untitled
Choreographer: Homer Avila (last work)
Duration: 10 minutes
Music: Street Sounds, Kruder Dorfmeister, The K& D Sessions

Title: Vivaldi
Choreographer: Sabatino Verlezza
Duration: 15 minutes
Music: Antonio Vivaldi

Title: Walking on Clouds
Choreographer: David Rousseve
Duration: 45 minutes
Music: Louis Armstrong/Ella Fitzgerald/The Kinks and Others



THE DANCING WHEELS COMPANY is proud to be recognized worldwide as America's first and foremost physically integrated Dance Company. In 1980, Founding Artistic Director, Mary Verdi-Fletcher revolutionized the concept of Physically integrated dance, opening doors for thousands of artists with and without disabilities to perform together on an equal basis. For more than a quarter of a century, The Dancing Wheels Company has reached audiences of over 3.5 million people with school assembly programs, workshops, residencies, story ballets and mainstage concert performances worldwide.

Under the direction of Mary Verdi-Fletcher, the Company of 12 dancers is full time its operation and tours 12 months of the year. Company members consider themselves as ambassadors bringing the philosophy of inclusive arts to their community near and far. The Company has represented America with full concert performances and workshops at the "International Very Special Arts Festival" in Brussels, Belgium and the "Annual International Contemporary Dance Conference and Performance Festival" in Bytom, Poland, as well as with tours to Prague, Republic of Czech and Guatemala. Recently The Company has performed for the first national conference on "Careers in the Arts for People With Disabilities" at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, the annual "Career Transitions for Dancers Gala" at the City Center, New York and for the "Spring to Dance Festival" in St. Louis, MO. A sample of past presenters includes Palace Theater, OH, King Center for the Performing arts and Tampa Bay Performing arts Center, FL, Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, North Carolina and World Band, Washington, DC.

Dancing Wheels has also been featured in numerous national publications such as Dance Magazine, The New York Times, Dance Spirit and "Chronicles of Courage", a book written by Jean Kennedy Smith and George Plimpton. The Company has also been featured on television programs including the ABC television special, "Christopher Reeve: A Celebration of Hope, " ABC's "Good Morning America", "CBS Sunday Morning", "CNN," and "Dancing Without Boundaries: The Story of Integrated Dance in America", a WKYC documentary. The Company is the proud recipient of the 2006 Northern Ohio Live Special Achievement Award, the 1998 Governor's Award for Outstanding Outreach in Ohio and the 1997 National Rehabilitation Award.


"[Dancing Wheels] is proof that the possibilities are endless..." Christopher Reeve

"Simply exquisite, perfection in motion."
Chicago Tribune

"A stunning blend of technical wizardry and artistic expression, the program was unlike anything the audience ever experienced. The dancers received three curtain calls."
Susan Gardstrom, Coord. of Therapy,
Univ. of Dayton, OH

"I thoroughly enjoyed your performance last week and the workshop is something I will never forget. You made a huge impact on the University of Toledo and the greater Toledo community."
Patricia Murphy, The University of Toledo

"The performance was really moving and a revelation for all of us. There was a strong sense of invention, a wonderful variety, and beautiful performances by all..."
Jessica Fogel, Assoc. Professor of Dance,
Univ. of MI/Ann Arbor


Dancer Salaries: $3000
Lighting Designer: $500
Agent Fee:$1200
Per Diems; (3 days) 10-12 dancers=$400/day= $1200
Office Staff:$350


The 10-35 minute special performance is perfect for galas, dinners, or other gatherings where entertainment is needed Performances can be tailor made to fit into specific themes or event ideas.

COMMUNITY LECTURE/PERFORMANCE- Less formal 60 min. presentation featuring 3-4 dancers. Designed to be both educational as well as entertaining, it includes narration, discussion, several dance pieces from the national tour repertoire.

60 Minutes, 6-8 dancers, fully costumed excerpts from any of the mainstage repertory and/or story ballets. Perfect for high school or college performances. In a theater, this concert is designed for student matinee performances or to accommodate when full production requirements or time availability is not possible.

This 70-90 minute, full Company concert style performance requires full technical and production accommodations. Typically used as a ticketed event for the general public. Performances may range from a full evening featuring the Company’s extensive repertory selections or one of its enchanting story ballets.


Perfect for K-College, this 45-minute to 1-hour program, including a question-and-answer session, brings together information about dance and disability related issues in a fun and informative manner.

The elementary school program is