Dancing Wheels Master Class

Today I watched the Dancing Wheels Master Class for another class assignment. Dancing Wheels is the first professional dance company in America that integrated both dancers with and without disabilities.  This master class was very interesting to watch since it was similar to their company class by using movement that can be done for both the disabled and movement dancers. I found it interesting what movement could be done in a chair and how it made the style more unique with the level changes.

The Master class was modern based movement and followed a rather typical modern syllabus by doing warm up in the center, across the floor and then combination or rep.

Class started with a Plié combination then moved on to a Horton inspired flat back exercise. A lot of the feedback by the dancers were how they felt their back engage during combinations while they were sitting in the chair vs standing and performing the same movement. Warm up continued with a “normal” center barre modern warm up by doing a Rond de Jambe combination in center and this was when turns were starting to be incorporated.  Continuing through warm up a Tendu, side bend and Grand battement combo was given.

Teaching a master class is difficult since you do not know each student to give corrections too. Especially in a modern based class most students have a different background and style creating the movement to look different. Bringing extra wheelchairs for this experience I though was extremely valuable to my fellow peers to get the full impacted of the master class.

Jumps were not a huge part of class since jumps are not easily done in a chair. However petit allegro was used to change directions. In the chair you can hop to move. For small jumps they also lifted the front wheels and put them back down almost keeping time but also giving the illusion that they were going off the floor. This was really interesting to watch my peers attempt since it is such an unknown that they had a hard time figuring out exactly how to perform the movement. A note used in class wass how to “translate” steps. You can do this one of three ways:

  • Direct or indirect
    • Movement translation
    • Special translation
    • Tempo translation
  • Jumps
    • Translated into hand claps, chair bumps (front wheels lift and put back down)

For Grande Allegro everyone did the same arms and timing and just used the body parts that they could use.


The music in the class was really helpful to keep the moving dancers and dancers using a chair to keep in time. This was the unified constant for each dancer no matter the movement you were performing.


Overall this was a very valuable experience to watch and I look forward to the performance tomorrow at Mercyhurst D’Angelo Performing Arts Center in Erie PA.  If you live in the area buy tickets now!



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