Dancing Wheels Performs “East Meets West…A Tale of Two Cities” at moCa Cleveland

Thu 12/12 @ 730PM

More than a year after finding its new Cleveland home, Dancing Wheels Company has continued to spread its creative wings.

America’s first and foremost physically integrated dance company for people with and without disabilities recently returned from its groundbreaking appearance at Beijing, China’s Luminous Festival.

Now Dancing Wheels Company is reimagining those experiences in the form of new production “East Meets West…A Tale of Two Cities,” which it’s scheduled to present December 12 at MoCa Cleveland. The premiere performance of the choreographic works draw inspiration from Beijing-based artist Liu Wei, whose exhibit “Invisible Cities” is currently featured at moCa Cleveland.

CoolCleveland talked to Dancing Wheels Company & School president/founding artistic director Mary Verdi-Fletcher about the recent trip to the Far East and the upcoming performance.

CoolCleveland: First of all, tell us about China.

Mary Verdi-Fletcher: There were 12 of us who went in October for the Luminous Festival, which was the first festival that included artists with disabilities. We were invited to do a full concert there. So it was a big honor and a great experience for everyone. We were very well received. The festival said they’d love to have us back again, which is quite a major trip. It took 13 and a half hours to fly. So, it was a long trip, but we really did very well.

CC: Has Dancing Wheels Company performed overseas before?

MVF: I had been out of the country with several Dancing Wheels dancers over the years, including to the Czech Republic, Poland and Russia. This is the first time the full company has gone to perform.

CC: While Dancing Wheels Company is back in Northeast Ohio, the trip to China is very much front and center with “East Meets West…A Tale of Two Cities.” Tell us how this production came about.

MVF: We’re excited about it because I actually offered the dancers an opportunity to create works based on their experiences in China. There will be six dancers (Matt Bowman, Tanya Ewell, Cody Kruse, Morgan Walker, Marissa Thomas and Sara Lawrence-Sucato) who have created brand-new premier works. We also found that at moCa Cleveland there’s an exhibition from a modern artist sculptor on display. So I thought this would be a wonderful way to tie in the east and the west, and allow for audiences to see new works as well as the wonderful exhibition that’s going on at moCa Cleveland. Also, our students are restaging a piece from New York City choreographer Nai-Ni Chen called “Unconquered Warriors.”

CC: What can audiences expect from “East Meets West…A Tale of Two Cities?”

MVF: Each dancer created new works created based on their interpretation of what they saw and what they felt while they were in Beijing. A lot of it has to do with the culture there and the magnificent pieces that we saw. We went to a lot of different places within the city. They wanted to embark on what impressed them or what changed their minds about what they thought they were going to see while in China. It was interesting because some of the great big sculptures that we saw and the modern buildings were very unusual to what you would see here in the United States. We also went to the Forbidden City. It was just so iconic to visit. You’ll see that interpreted in their new dances.

CC: These are exciting times indeed for Dancing Wheels Company. Last year you moved into your new home at 3030 Euclid Avenue in Cleveland. This year you’re traveling the world.

MVF: The move led to a fresh new image and feel for the company. Our new space is beautiful and uplifting. Also, I think that newness and embarking on our 40thanniversary season, which will come up in 2020-2021, is definitely something to look forward to. Now we have a new artist representative and they work internationally. So that’s looking to see a wonderful opportunity for us to go to other countries and perform. There’s a great need for physically integrated dance now throughout the world. As leaders in that field we feel that we’re bringing something very special to especially artists with disabilities who don’t have that same opportunity as others. It’s not the same in other countries that it is in the United States in terms of equality. So it’s very new to them, but they’re very excited about it. We’re glad to be a part of that.

[Written by John Benson]

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