Arts & Disability Week

Photos taken by: Sorcha Augustine

The Van Wezel Hall in collaboration with the Sarasota Performing Arts Foundation planned an exciting week in January with several events that highlight Disability and the Arts. Funded in part with a contract from the Kennedy Center VSA program, these events were meant to educate and inspire multiple constituencies, creating much needed dialogue about access, identity, and artistry. The week began with a WORLD PREMIERE of REVolutionary Moves: Defying Limits Through Dance. This Schooltime performance was performed by REVolutions Dance Company, a Tampa-based physically integrated company featuring both disabled and non-disabled dancers. The Van Wezel Education Department partnered with Ruth Eckerd Hall to produce this Schooltime show which highlights the beauty of disability in contemporary dance. We are proud that we could help support this company in creating something that will not only teach but inspire. Over 2,000 local schoolchildren attended the performances. Many of these children ALSO had disabilities. For these students, it was particularly meaningful to see oneself reflected in the identities of the dancers.

In order to prepare students and teachers for this unique performance, The Van Wezel Education Department created a performance guide to help introduce and highlight physically integrated dance. All teachers bringing students to the performances received copies of Silva Laukkanen’s book The Breadth of Bodies: Discussing Disability in Dance. Additionally, Dwayne Scheuneman, the Artistic Director of REVolutions Dance went to Oak Park School to lead dance workshops with students and paraprofessionals. Those students then saw him on stage the following week!
As a complement to this exciting show, we presented a panel discussion with Dwayne Scheuneman, the Artistic Director of REV Dance, Silva Laukkanen, author of The Breadth of Bodies: Discussing Disability in Dance, one-handed violinist Adrian Anantawan, and Dr. Roger Ideishi, Director of Occupational Therapy at George Washington University.
Dr. Ideishi then offered an educator professional development workshop the following day entitled “The Diversity in Neurodiversity: Access and Inclusion in the Arts”. Nearly 60 local teachers, artists and service providers attended.
Together, these events place the Van Wezel Hall and the Sarasota Performing Arts Foundation at the center of the conversation about how our community can best serve our population of persons with disabilities.

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