September 5, 2007
Sept. 8 ballet showcases unique troupe
By Susan Christensen
Health and Research News Service
JACKSON, Miss.—The USA International Ballet Competition (IBC) and VSA arts of Mississippi, in collaboration with Methodist Rehabilitation Center, Mississippi Paralysis Association, Collage and Belhaven College, proudly present Tunes, Tutus and Turning Wheels.
This performance, integrating artists and dancers with and without disabilities, will take place on Saturday, September 8 at 7:30 p.m. in the concert hall of Belhaven Center for the Arts. The event is open to the public. Admission is free and donations will be accepted at the door.
The Tunes, Tutus and Turning Wheels concert includes an exciting array of dances ranging from classical ballet to contemporary modern works. Guest dance professionals include: Theara Ward, formerly of the Dance Theatre of Harlem, who made her Broadway debut in the Tony Award winning revue, Black and Blue and currently teaches for the Alvin Ailey Foundation; husband and wife duo, Robert and Brooke Wesner, former dancers with Arizona Ballet and currently directors of Neos Dance Company; and the Belhaven Dance Ensemble.
Belhaven Dance Department chair Cynthia Newland is the choreographer for the project.
“The subject matter and content presented in Tunes, Tutus and Turning Wheels will bring the audience to emotional places ranging from outbursts of laughter and sympathetic tears,” said Newland. “The relationships between the dancers on and off stage are rich. This is enhanced by the fact that some of the dancers with disabilities have had the opportunity to work together over the past three years. Seeing dancers with disabilities perform with such effort and passion reminds us that we all really are the same in so many ways.”
Tunes, Tutus and Turning Wheels is made possible through funding from the Mississippi Paralysis Association and the central office of VSA arts.
“Everyone has the right to express themselves through dance, but many are denied that right based on a physical disability,” said V.A. Patterson, executive director of VSA arts of Mississippi. “We are so pleased to be a part of this wonderful program which is giving people with disabilities the opportunity to perform and to promote disability awareness to audiences across the state.”
“It’s been wonderful to bring so many different groups together, and everyone involved has made such worthy contributions to the upcoming program,” said Sue Lobrano, executive director of the USA IBC. “We have really enjoyed collaborating with other community organizations on this project.”
“This is a unique experience for all participants and an awesome collaboration between all agencies,” said Ginny Boydston, director of Therapeutic Recreation at Methodist Rehabilitation Center. “It is an opportunity of a lifetime for all and a time to explore dance and the arts.”
Performers include Sheila Burnham of Madison, Tom Burnley of Madison, Pam Phillips of Flowood, DeJuan Surrell of Jackson, Jerry Bowles of Brandon, Belhaven dance students Amanda Parsons and Benji Tompkins, and Krista Pieper Bower, a member of the Adjunct Dance Faculty at Belhaven College.
“This is my second experience working with dancers with disabilities through the collaboration between Belhaven College and VSA arts of Mississippi. Every rehearsal has deepened my respect for my fellow performers. I have been inspired by the humility, courage, determination, and joy of the dancers with disabilities. It has been a pleasure to work with them and learn how they have confronted and overcome challenges. Together, we have created entertaining dances that will engage and encourage our audience,” said Krista Pieper Bower.
The upcoming performance will feature a piece called “Stop, Drop and Roll.” This is a light hearted dance choreographed to spicy Caribbean sounds and displays the humorous interactions between quirky people.
“Rehearsals have been both challenging and enjoyable. I've always enjoyed the arts, particularly dance, and this has taught me how to dance with life. When faced with adversity, I've learned it is easier to dance with life than to fight against it. I'm nervous to make a serious mistake in the performance, but I'm excited to show the general public that life is not over because you use a wheelchair. New challenges can be met,” said Tom Burnley, one of the dancers with a disability.
For more information about the event, contact the USA IBC at 601-355-9853 or visit www.usaibc.com.
For more information:
'Tutus and Turning Wheels' puts a new spin on dance | The Clarion-Ledger