‘Dancing Wheels’ returns to MUM’s Dave Finkelman Auditorium

MIDDLETOWN – A physically integrated dance company that unites stand-up and sit-down (wheelchair) dancers returns to Miami University-Middletown’s Dave Finkelman Auditorium at noon Thursday, April 9.

The Cleveland-based Dancing Wheels Company & School has performed, taught and inspired children and adults of all abilities around the world for more than three decades, said Carrie Scherer Chambers, director of Student Activities & Orientation at MUM.

“We had them here a few years ago, we had a huge turnout from the community as well as from those on campus,” Scherer Chambers said. “So, it was obvious that this was something that the community, and our faculty, staff and students were interested in.

“By bringing in Dancing Wheels, we want the community to know that the Miami Regionals are inclusive campuses that celebrate and welcome everybody, and to let some of our students, faculty, staff and community members that might have differing abilities, see people like them being celebrated.”

The event is free and open to the public. RSVP’s are requested at regionals.miamioh.edu/rsvp/dancing-wheels or by calling (513) 217-4184.

“For almost 35 years, the company has been touring with performances,” said Sara Lawrence-Sucato, company tour manager and company member for Dancing Wheels. “The performance will be a lecture performance, so it is an entertaining performance with speaking in between that is educational. It focuses on disability awareness, especially within the realm of dance, and also how we work with people with different abilities – physical, visual impairments and hearing impairments.

“Dancing Wheels is about achieving dreams. The founder of the company, Mary Verdi-Fletcher wanted to be a dancer, and she worked to gather people around her that could help that dream come true. Today, we are still living out her legacy. She is alive and with us, and she continues to do it.”

Born with spina bifida, Cleveland native Verdi-Fletcher founded the organization in 1980. She is recognized as one of the first professional wheelchair dancers in the U.S..

“It is very rewarding to perform for audiences, who have never seen a physically integrated dance company perform. Mostly, because it is very eye-opening for them, and they don’t realize the possibilities that exist,” Lawrence-Sucato said. “It’s a fun performance with a different aspect of dance.”

Additionally, the company has a school that offers dance classes, teaching a variety of different modern dance forms. The teachers go out into the community as an educational outreach as well. Dancing Wheels performs about 75 to 80 performances per year, including home-based, seasonal performances, along with national and international tour dates. There are currently 15 members in the company, and four of them will be dancing in Middletown.

“I saw the dancers the last time they were here and it was a beautiful performance. They were very engaging with the crowd, especially with the kids, they brought them up on stage and things like that. It was a fun and pretty performance, and everyone who attended really enjoyed it. Every seat that we had was full. We had no idea that it would be so popular,” Scherer Chambers said.

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