Cleveland’s Dancing Wheels Schedules “The Best of Bowie” Fundraiser at Jacobs Pavilion

Dancing Wheels’ “Labyrinth: A Tribute” celebrates Jim Henson’s 1986 film.
Dancing Wheels’ “Labyrinth: A Tribute” celebrates Jim Henson’s 1986 film. (Photo courtesy of Dancing Wheels)

Sat 6/10 @ 8PM

Perhaps there’s nothing more potentially life-changing than the statement “You have no power over me.” The powerful message is the heart of Jim Henson’s 1986 film Labyrinth, which famously starred David Bowie, who also scored the soundtrack.

Decades later, the musical fantasy is still touching audiences, which is why Dancing Wheels Company decided to create its own unique interpretation, “Labyrinth: A Tribute.” Now the production acts as the centerpiece of the company’s June 10 fundraiser “The Best of Bowie” taking place at Jacobs Pavilion at the Nautica Complex on the West Bank of the Flats.

The evening also includes other Thin White Duke-inspired dance performances: “Space Oddity” (dancers aged 40 and older), “Under Pressure/Let’s Dance” (students), “Pallas Athena” (full company) and, of course, “Labyrinth” (full company). Emceeing the event is CoolCleveland’s Thomas Mulready, who not only will be talking Bowie in between dances, but also performing glam-era tunes with Cleveland band Vanity Crash.

CoolCleveland talked to Dancing Wheels artistic director Mary Verdi-Fletcher about “The Best of Bowie” affair.

First of all, what was the idea behind producing “Labyrinth?”

Over a year ago, one of my former dancers asked if she could choreograph “Labyrinth.” This was something that is in her style and she always dreamed of choreographing a piece around. This discussion had taken place prior to Bowie’s death. I agreed we’d put the production up. It was supposed to premier in August of last year at Cain Park, but they had a huge storm and it took out their electricity. We weren’t able to perform it. We decided we’d wait until our next gala, which is the one on June 10. After thinking about it, I wanted to expand on that idea. [CoolCleveland’s] Thomas Mulready and I collaborated on how we can build this whole event to make it bigger and better. It’s centered around David Bowie, of course, and it’s a mix of music and video.

Did the production of “Labyrinth” change over time?

It hasn’t. We did take it on the road and performed it for its world premiere at Mercyhurst College in September. For “The Best of Bowie,” we decided that we would add three new pieces. We have a choreographer from New York coming in and doing a piece that is based on our 40-and-older dancers. It’s kind of a reunion of our dancers who have retired. And then we have our ensemble performing a piece, as well as the full company doing another selection for this show.

How does Dancing Wheels put its stamp on Bowie’s “Labyrinth?”

Because Dezare’ Foster, a former dance company member, is dancing, she literally wanted to take a bent on the original film. So it’s a departure from what the film was, and it’s a mix of what we call standup and sit-down dancers. Actually, the Goblin King is our wheelchair user Demarco Sleeper, who plays the role incredibly. He partners with our standup dancer Sara Lawrence-Sucato, who is Sarah in the film. So, it’s unique in the sense that it’s comprised of dancers with and without disabilities. There’s also the idea of different masks created by the Cleveland Museum of Art and interesting costuming in the show. We have walls that come out on stage and doors that Sarah has to go through, so we used elements of what was in the film. (Foster) also used his own creativity to show this journey. It’s about being careful of what you wish for, kindness of others and the support of your friends and surrounding people in your life.

In your opinion, how does “Labyrinth” fit into the Dancing Wheels mission?

Dancing Wheels is certainly about embracing one another and supporting each other and grounding yourself by these beliefs in others of the possibilities. Almost every production we stage shows incredible power of the dancers and a mix of support for each other.

It really just sounds like a great nice of dancing, Bowie and fun.

It really is, and Vanity Crash is performing So, we’ll have a dance party at the end of it. It’s going to be a really interesting and fun event.

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