Who doesn’t love mermaids?
Half lady, half fish, these legendary beings seem in Disney’s Peter Pan swimming fortunately and gracefully in ways in which we mere people can’t. But, three of the dancers in Full Radius Dance’s efficiency Friday at 7 Levels approximated their playful, lyrical magnificence in addition to any people might.
Julianna Feracota, Courtney Michelle McClendon and Ashlee Jo Ramsey-Borunov carried out “The Mermaids’ Lagoon” on the ground, as in the event that they too had fish tails as a substitute of legs. It was cleverly choreographed and fantastically danced. But it surely was greater than that.
Full Radius Dance is a bodily built-in firm, that means an ensemble comprising motion artists with and with out disabilities. The three different performers on Friday — Sonya Rio-Glick, Matthew Smith and Peter L. Trojic — are disabled and carried out of their wheelchairs. Two of them have cerebral palsy. Just like the mermaids, they didn’t stand or stroll (with one gorgeous exception, which I’ll get to later.)
So it was a stroke of brilliance that the corporate’s inventive/govt director and choreographer Douglas Scott, in collaboration with the dancers, created this mermaid trio — by which standing and strolling weren’t mandatory — for 3 who might do each.
We don’t decide or shun mermaids for his or her incapability to stroll, however too usually folks with disabilities are feared, misunderstood or each. This was simply one of many instructing moments in Alice, Peter, and Dorothy, a brand new work that appears at Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz and Peter and Wendy (the supply e book for Peter Pan) by a incapacity lens.
The corporate carried out 5 excerpts from this work-in-progress on Friday. (It will likely be attention-grabbing to see sooner or later how they cope with Peter Pan‘s Captain Hook.)
For a few years, Scott was adamant that Full Radius was at the start a dance ensemble, not an activist car for folks with disabilities. However the work we noticed and heard at this efficiency, and Scott’s feedback in a current ArtsATL interview, present that he has modified his thoughts.
In Alice, Peter, and Dorothy, the primary work on this system, Scott informed us concerning the writer of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in a voiceover narration. Lewis Carroll, he defined, had one shoulder increased than the opposite, some facial deformities, “was deaf in his proper ear, blind in his proper eye, and walked with a jerky gait.” It’s not how we consider Carroll, after we think about chasing down the rabbit gap with Alice and assembly the Queen of Hearts and the Mad Hatter.
Ah sure, the Mad Hatter. Hat-making within the nineteenth century, Scott informed us, concerned the usage of mercury, inflicting neurological harm corresponding to slurred speech and reminiscence loss. Therefore Carroll’s Mad Hatter. One other incapacity.
Full Radius additionally reminded us that witches have energy, and that energy can be utilized for each evil and good. In “The Witches of Oz” part, Rio-Glick, who like the opposite disabled performers had been “dancing” by propelling her chair in easy circles and quarter turns, all of a sudden stood up. It was a completely surprising, highly effective second that took one’s breath away.
She then haltingly walked ahead a few steps for a quick ground duet with an able-bodied dancer, once more difficult the viewers’s expectations.
Throughout his adolescence, L. Frank Baum, writer of The Great Wizard of Oz, skilled troopers getting back from the Civil Conflict. Injured and with amputated limbs, they had been usually banned from public gatherings. Scott handled this shameful historical past by telling us about it, then delivering the alternative in motion. Within the “Maps of Fantasy” chapter, he organized 5 of the dancers at one aspect of the stage. They regarded into the wings, as if ready for his or her family members. The sixth dancer entered (maybe as an injured soldier?) and fell into the embrace of Trojic in his wheelchair. It was a young second, and certainly one of many examples of Scott’s mild contact.
Alice, Peter, and Dorothy opened with all six dancers clad in vibrant blue tops, their backs to the viewers. Every moved one arm lyrically, like a wing or an ocean wave, in unison with the others. It was unison sections like this that emphasised integration all through the night and had been pretty to look at.
Undercurrents, the second work on this system and a premiere, featured many such moments in addition to duets for one able-bodied dancer and one chair performer. Undercurrents additionally included tableau created by a number of dancers holding onto, standing on or leaning towards one other performer’s chair. At instances the disabled performers tipped their chairs sideways onto one wheel, as one other dancer held them in place. Trojic regarded ailing comfortable in these off-balance positions, however he was firmly supported by McClendon.
Undercurrents encompassed tender embraces in addition to dynamic, expansive motion phrases and duets, all of which the able-bodied dancers, Feracota particularly, carried out with power and precision. They had been enhanced by Gregory Catellier’s nuanced lighting design, which gave the whole lot a heat glow.
Full Radius Dance, now in its thirty third yr, encourages audiences to embrace “the opposite” with out concern or judgment and hopefully to see and respect the artistry these performers create collectively.
And whereas the pendulum has maybe swung too far within the activist path (the narration felt too didactic at instances), Full Radius Dance embodies a robust message of acceptance and unity that our fractured, divisive world sorely wants.
Gillian Anne Renault has been an ArtsATL contributor since 2012 and was named Senior Editor for Artwork+Design and Dance in 2021. She has coated dance for the Los Angeles Every day Information, Herald Examiner and Ballet Information, and was dance critic on radio stations corresponding to KCRW, the NPR affiliate in Santa Monica, California. Within the Nineteen Eighties, she acquired an NEA Fellowship to attend American Dance Competition’s Dance Criticism program.