Disability. Dance. Artistry.

Dancing Wheels Company & School

 
Dancing Wheels CompanyPhoto by: Dale Dong

Mission Statement

Mary Verdi-Fletcher, America’s first professional wheelchair dancer, founded The Dancing Wheels Company in 1980 in Cleveland, Ohio. Having been born with spina bifida, Mary wanted to open the doors of opportunity for people with disabilities who wanted to pursue their goals on an equal ground with their non-disabled peers. Mary always wanted to be a professional dancer, and was not going to let her disability stand in her way. The Dancing Wheels Company was formed to employ professionally-trained dancers, with and without disabilities.

Ten years later, The Dancing Wheels Company joined forces with the Cleveland Ballet to create Cleveland Ballet Dancing Wheels, becoming a unique co-venture for a major ballet company that continued for nearly a decade. Today, The Dancing Wheels Company & School is housed under Professional Flair, Inc., a 501(c)(3) arts/disability organization established by a board of directors in 1989. Thirty-four years ago, this concept was uncharted territory in the world of dance, but Mary’s passion and perseverance has revolutionized the idea of dance and the notion of who should or could participate. Dancing Wheels is proud to convey this message of inclusion and accessibility. Our mission involves several principles and goals:

· To develop activities between individuals with and without disabilities that expand

opportunities for integration in the arts.

· To dispel negative myths and stereotypes of individuals with disabilities in professional

careers, primarily in the arts.

· To offer individuals with disabilities positive role models that are motivated, independent, creative and successful.

· To instill a greater understanding and level of professionalism in individuals with and without disabilities.

 

Program Statement

Since its beginning, The Dancing Wheels Company’s compelling performances and educational outreach programming have conveyed the philosophy of inclusive arts and reached audiences of over five million people worldwide with school assembly programs, workshops, residencies, and mainstage concert performances. The Company has also had the distinguished honor to represent its work at international festivals and conferences in Poland, Guatemala, British Columbia, Trinidad and the Czech Republic. The Company has been featured on CNN, “Good Morning America” and on the ABC television special “Christopher Reeve, A Celebration of Hope.”

As the Dancing Wheels Company gained recognition as America’s first physically integrated dance company, numerous requests were received from families whose children with disabilities had no resource for arts and recreational programs. The School of Dancing Wheels was established in 1990 in response to this overwhelming need in the community, and continues to serve as Ohio’s only inclusive multi-arts school. We serve populations that have limited access to arts activities, with a significant focus on children with disabilities, youth-at-risk, and those from socio-economic challenges.

 

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