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Axis Dance Company Incorporates Dancers of All Physical Abilities

David DeSilva
Axis Dance Company
Dancers Sophie Stanley, Nick Brentley, Dwayne Scheuneman, and Julie Crothers.

This week one of the more innovative and inspiring modern dance companies in the country will call Sheboygan’s John Michael Kohler Arts Center their temporary home. Axis Dance Company is based in Oakland, California, and draws on the equal talents of able bodied and disabled dancers alike to expand on the idea of what movement can be and is for.

"The form of dance we do is completely reliant on dancers who are disabled and dancers who aren’t.  Without either side of that coin, this form of dance wouldn’t exist," says Axis Dance artistic director Judith Smith.

Smith herself became disabled at the age of 17 at a time when she aspired to work with show jumping horses. When she went to college she moved from Colorado to attend Berkley at the recommendation of a disabled friend. There Smith met one of her first personal care assistants who was a movement improviser and an aerial dancer. It was during college where she learned to move in a completely different way despite being in a wheelchair.

"When you're planning a lifetime and a career based on your physical ability and you lose that, it's devastating," says Smith. "I feel like I've sat still for a lot years kind of not knowing how to be in my body. So to be able to find ways to move again and to be physical really excited me."

This week Axis Dance Company is holding workshops and will offer two performances tomorrow and Thursday night in Sheboygan to give Wisconsin audiences the same thrill that Smith experienced in new movement through participating in dance or as an audience member.

"It's a whole new movement vocabulary. It's physical, it's theatrical, it's innovative. I think the words we hear most often is 'mind blowing,'" Smith says.

Bonnie North
Bonnie joined WUWM in March 2006 as the Arts Producer of the locally produced weekday magazine program Lake Effect.
Audrey is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.