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September 30, 2005

Heaven on wheels

Cleveland--Mark October 1, 2005 on the calendar. Mayor Jane Campbell has officially declared it Dancing Wheels Day.

Those with close ties to the arts and dance community in Ohio will probably recognize the name, but others will be scratching their heads.

“What is Dancing Wheels?” they will ask. “Why has October 1 been dedicated to them?”

Dancing Wheels is America’s first professional integrated dance troupe, using stand-up and sit-down performers.

Dancing Wheels opened the world of professional dance to people in wheelchairs, freeing them to engage in artistic expression through staged movement. Founded in 1980, this weekend marks the troupe’s 25th anniversary, which they will celebrate with a gala at the Intercontinental Hotel on Cleveland’s east side with WKYC’s Dick Russ as master of ceremonies and a special appearance by actress Patricia Neal, who won the Best Actress Academy Award for Hud.

At the gala, an anniversary book by dance historian Melinda Grohol will be introduced, and a new documentary will be previewed, 25 Years of Integrated Dance in America. The documentary will be televised in its entirety in December on WKYC.

Throughout Dancing Wheels’ history, the LGBT community has played a vital role in its success, especially gay men.

The Silver Screening Benefit Gala, for instance, which kicks off a year-long celebration for the anniversary, is co-chaired by Phillip Goldberg, who is openly gay.

“Troy McCarty is also gay, and he is our ballet master,” said Verdi-Fletcher. “I think we have plenty of gay topics, since our company believe in the equality of all people.”

Mark Tomasic, known for his work with Verb Ballets, has also danced with the troupe on a number of occasions, as well as choreographing numbers.

Tomasic will be part of the performances at the gala.

Part of the silver anniversary will be a national touring integrated dance festival, spotlighting the work of the country’s top three integrated dance troupes. In addition to Dancing Wheels, the tour will also feature Full Radius from Atlanta and Oakland, California’s Axis Dance Company.

The tour kicks off on May 13, 2006 at Playhouse Square in Cleveland.

Dancing Wheels’ next performance following the Silver Screening Benefit Gala will be at the Cuyahoga County Community College Metro Campus Theater from December 2 to 4 with their holiday production The Snowman, based on Raymond Briggs’ tale of a boy’s friendship with a snowman intrigued by the possibilities of his new life.

And, as the late Christopher Reeve said of the troupe, “Dancing Wheels is proof that the possibilities are endless.”

For more information on the company, go to


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