The Dancing Wheels Company & School Marks its 40th Anniversary
Founded in 1980 by Mary Verdi-Fletcher, The Dancing Wheels Company has pioneered inclusive dance for dancers with and without disabilities. The company has remained on the forefront of physically integrated dance for 40 years by leading the movement with its international touring presence and innovative work.
President and Founding Artistic Director, Mary Verdi-Fletcher, was born with spina bifida. From a young age, she envisioned how a wheelchair user could not only dance, but perform professionally alongside her non- disabled peers. In 1980, Mary and her non-disabled partner entered a national disco dance competition taking the audience and the judge by complete surprise. Their performance was received with a standing ovation and accolades from all who witnessed—for the first time in anyone’s experience, a new form of dance using feet and wheels to blaze across the stage.
Soon thereafter, Mary and her partner were performing throughout the country, appearing in 72 shows in their first year. In 1990, Dancing Wheels entered into an agreement with Cleveland Ballet to become Cleveland Ballet Dancing Wheels, a groundbreaking collaboration that lasted 10 years.
Throughout its four decades, Dancing Wheels has grown in its influence and prominence in the world of dance. The company’s professional members have presented residencies, master classes, and performances throughout the world, while also hosting others at its World Center for Integrated Dance & Arts Access in Cleveland’s Mid-Town. Here, dance enthusiasts, teachers, choreographers, and dancers come to learn and grow in the art form of physically integrated dance.
In celebration of the 40th anniversary of Dancing Wheels and the birth of integrated dance in America, a season of celebratory events and activities are planned, including the 40th Anniversary Season Performance and Gala entitled, First, Fierce, and For Everyone!
On Friday, June 25 at Severance Hall, Dancing Wheels fans and dance enthusiasts are invited to join the anniversary celebration. VIP guests will be feted with a pre-performance cocktail party. Following the 8:00 p.m. performance, all guests are invited to continue the celebration with champagne and other surprises.
Tickets are $140 each for the VIP cocktail party and $40 each for general admission. A live-streaming option is also available for $100 per household. Ticketing information is available at dancingwheels.org
Mary Verdi-Fletcher has said, “The biggest disability is when you say ‘I can’t,’ because if you say ‘I can’t’ then it all stops. If you say, ‘I’ll try’ or ‘I think I can,’ then you have an opportunity to start and see where it goes.”
Please join Dancing Wheels on June 25 to celebrate 40 years of “I can” determination from the company that was FIRST to introduce physically integrated dance, and FIERCE in its dedication to providing arts access FOR EVERYONE.