Dancing Wheels visits Dowagiac

Published 6:08 pm Sunday, April 13, 2014

(Submitted photo)

(Submitted photo)

Dance is an expression of the human spirit — by all people of all abilities.  The Dowagiac Dogwood Fine Arts Festival will present one of the premier arts and disabilities organizations in the United States.

Dancing Wheels is a professional, physically integrated dance company uniting the talents of dancers with and without disabilities.

Dancing Wheels was founded by Mary Verdi-Fletcher, the first professional wheelchair dancer in the United States.  Born with spina bifida, Mary wanted to offer others with disabilities full and equal access into the world of dance.

Verdi-Fletcher has been a pioneering force in the development and success of physically integrated dance for over 30 years. She has worked and studied with such esteemed artists as Christopher Reeve, Donald McKayle, David Rousseve, Dianne McIntyre, Dennis Nahat, Keith Young, Ben Vereen and many others.

Seeing the need for training and career opportunities for dancers of all ability levels, MVerdi-Fletcher created the multi-arts Dancing Wheels School in 1990. Attracting students from around the globe, the school is becoming the worldwide center for physically integrated dance.

As an educator, Mary has conducted master classes and lectures and has consulted with notable arts institutions across several continents.

Also a tireless arts administrator and advocate, Mary has helped develop state and national programs for arts and disability service organizations and has worked to help to pass significant pieces of legislation. Her efforts have paved the way for others in their quest for full and equal access.

Mary’s recent professional affiliations include executive committee ,ember for the Careers in Arts Summit, program committee member for The Association of Performing Arts Presenters Annual Conference, advisory board member for The Arc of Greater Cleveland and board member for Ohio Arts Presenters.

To date, the Dancing Wheels Company’s inspirational mission has touched over 5 million people through performances, school assemblies, residencies and workshops. Millions more have enjoyed their artistry via appearances on CNN, Good Morning America and the TV special “Christopher Reeve: A Celebration of Hope.”

Dancing Wheels will perform Saturday, May 10, in the theatre of the Dale A. Lyons Building on the Dowagiac campus of Southwestern Michigan College at 7:30 p.m.  Tickets are  $20 for adults and $15 for students.

Imperial Furniture continues their commitment to the arts in Southwest Michigan as a 16-year sponsor of the dance event.

The Festival also welcomes Borgess-Lee Memorial Hospital this season as a proud sponsor of this exciting event.  The Festival is reinforced  by the generous support of the St. Denys Foundation and the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Events.

For tickets and information about this and other Dogwood Festival events call (269) 782-1115, (866) 490-2847 or visit www.dogwoodfinearts.org.