A few weeks ago, Mercyhurst University was lucky enough to have the chance to watch the performance of Dancing Wheels. This production was not like other shows that we have seen since this was one of the few companies that combine moveable dancers as well as disabled dancers in their company.
Entering in to this performance I was not completely sure what to think, however, I was fortunate enough to watch the master class by Dancing Wheels the night before the performance. During the masterclass it was interesting how each dance step was interpreting to do in a wheelchair vs standing. A lot of the dancers taking part in class said how they felt their core more sitting in the chair doing the steps then doing the original step. During this class I found it interesting how they used both a direct and indirect way of movement translation, special translation and tempo translation. Meaning for jumps they did claps or chair bumps. This was incorporated throughout the class and translated to their performance as well.
The performance started with a piece called Walls of Glass created in 2009. This piece was a great first piece of the show. It introduced the movement to us as the audience and made us see the dance as a whole rather than being distracted with the wheelchairs since it is not a typical thing to see during a dance performance. My favorite part about this piece was how the President Mary Verdi-Fletcher was taken from her chair and preformed a floor section with multiple lifts as well. This to me is exactly what dance is about. You could see the passion, heart and soul in this performance by her as well as all of the other performers.
The following piece was my favorite of the performance. The piece started with a partnering duet. One individual was in a wheel chair and the female was standing. Even though he was partnering her from below this was one of the best transfer of weight partnering I have ever scene. The entire movement was extremely fluid as well as extremely captivating. This piece was a contemporary modern style and continued the overall theme of the entire company together. To make this style of dance work trust is involved. The section in this dance where the completely moveable dancers were pushing the wheelchair dancers across the stage as the lead female walked slowly in a line was truly breath taking. This moment in the piece took a lot of trust, timing and control to fully do the movement justice and they did just that.
The second part of the show was a full 11 scene piece. Originally I was watching this piece and did not fully understand it however after being told the story I do feel the choreography was fitting for the story. For me this was my least favorite piece preformed. Overall I felt that the program notes helped to say the overall piece but for someone who hasn’t seen the original film Labyrinth it was difficult for me to get on board. I also felt that the choreography did not completely show the dancers of the company completely their talent. I felt that the partnering was not as impressive as it was in the second piece. I am aware that all of the wheelchair dancers have different abilities on how much they can perform however it would have been interesting to see more partner work for such a defined story.
Overall the concert was extremely inspiring. Prior to this is had never heard or been able to watch a diverse company in this manner. I did enjoy the first half of the concert more so than the other half. After taking three different choreography classes I really watched the choreography aspect of the show including lighting and staging. It was interest and made me concentrate on the dancers during the second piece. This experience was extremely beneficial for me as dancer and choreographer as well as the master class was helpful for teaching. I am very glad that we received this opportunity and look forward to the connection that Dancing Wheels and Mercyhurst Dance department have since a few of our alum are a part of the company. This was also a highlight of the show being able to see a few familiar faces on stage.