World-Renowned AXIS Dance Company to Perform and Offer Workshops to U.Va. Students and Community March 22-26

March 16, 2010 — The University of Virginia Dance Program and Department of Drama will present one of the most boundary-breaking arts organizations in America March 22 through 26 when it welcomes AXIS Dance Company for a series of master classes, student demonstrations and a public performance at the Paramount Theater.

The San Francisco-based AXIS Dance Company creates and presents contemporary dance by artists with and without disabilities. AXIS acts as a bridge between contemporary dance and physically integrated dance, providing audiences a chance to expand the very definition of what the art form is and can be.

The visit will be highlighted by a performance at the Paramount on March 26 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students, children and U.Va. faculty and staff. Tickets can be purchased online [link to: www.artsboxoffice.virginia.edu/], by phone at 434-924-3376 and in person at the Arts Box Office, in the lobby of the Culbreth Theatre, on weekdays from noon to 5 p.m.

On March 22, AXIS will give community members a chance to be a part of the performance as they host open auditions for those with and without disabilities to perform in choreographer David Dorfman's "Light Shelter" at The Paramount. For more information and to sign up for an audition slot, visit here.

The company will present a master class for U.Va. students on March 23 at 11 a.m. at the U.Va. Aquatic & Fitness Center. Admission is free. Later that afternoon, at 5 p.m., they will hold a master class for community members at the U.Va. North Grounds Recreation Center.  Admission for this class is $7. Space is limited, and RSVPs are required by e-mail to ras3tj@virginia.edu

Since its founding in 1987, AXIS has reached beyond the boundaries of its art form and the perceived boundaries of its dancers to redefine not only how people see dance, but how they see themselves and each other. The company has paved the way for a powerful contemporary dance form – physically integrated dance – and has performed in 60 cities nationwide and in Europe. 

The New York Times recently wrote that an AXIS performance "will change the way you feel about dance and the potential of the human body forever."

According to its artistic director Judith Smith, physically challenged performers are just one part of the AXIS equation. "We are as much about nondisability as we are about disability. It is not just about the disabled dancers, it is about the fact that we can do what we do because both components are represented."

For U.Va. Dance Program head and faculty member Rose Pasquarello Beauchamp, AXIS represents an opportunity to challenge students and audiences to think about dance in different ways.

"One of my challenges is to break my students out of the bubble by asking them the question 'What is dance?' So having these young people interact with people of differing abilities is huge, just as it is huge for the audience. People are more used to more classical dance forms. So just having people that have limitations on stage is a huge deal, and I feel like it might even open up people's minds to say 'If they can do it, maybe I can too.'"

Bringing the company also has a personal connection for Beauchamp. Her former student Ashley Sisti studied dance for three years at U.Va. In the spring of 2007, she was thrown off a horse and suffered a traumatic spinal cord injury, losing her ability to walk.

"Having someone I was dancing with one week and the next she could not walk was a huge thing for me," Beauchamp said. "So to have this opportunity to present this company and engage in this dialog around accessibility has been amazing."

This dialog has been engaged in not only by dance students and audiences through AXIS, but by some of the world's leading choreographers. The list of AXIS collaborators reads like a Who's Who of contemporary dance, ranging from Bill T. Jones to Victoria Marks, Ann Carlson, Meredith Monk and David Dorfman, whose piece it will be performing at The Paramount.

Since its inception, AXIS has made education and outreach a key component of its offerings.  "We spend about 50 percent of our time doing artistic work and 50 percent doing educational work," Smith said, "and the two are inextricably linked. We have an opportunity to reach so many people who might not be reached through traditional contemporary dance and it's a great platform for teaching about dance, disability and collaboration, about difference and about inclusion. We absolutely love to go out and meet and get involved with the communities in which we perform."

As part of this effort, on March 26, AXIS will host a demonstration and lecture for local middle and high school students and educators at the Paramount. This youth performance will provide the exciting experience of participating as an audience member of a live AXIS performance in a theater setting. AXIS dancers will showcase artistic repertory, provide educational information on disability, personal dance history and include the audience in a physically integrated dance experience. Admission is free and open to local students and educators. RSVPs are required; visit www.virginia.edu/drama/axisdance/ to reserve a spot. 

The AXIS Dance company residency at U.Va. is supported by U.Va. Arts Enhancement Fund , Arts Connect, New England Foundation of the Arts, VSA Arts and The Hook. The MetLife Foundation is the National Tour Sponsor of AXIS Dance Company.

For information on the AXIS Dance Company guest artist residency and performance, visit here.

— By Jane Ford