Santa Cruz Good Times

Sunday
Dec 21st
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Out of Body

ae1-1AXISAXIS Dance Company challenges what it means to be a dancer

AXIS Dance Company is testament to the old adage “you have to see it to believe it.” The Oakland-based organization has earned praise worldwide for its physically integrated dance—a contemporary form that incorporates dancers with and without disabilities.

“There is a huge amount of skill and generosity that goes into a physically integrated performance that gets lost in words,” explains Sonsheree Giles, associate director of AXIS. “You have to see it, because it’s hard for most people to understand what it might mean for someone with a wheelchair to dance.”

Since its inception in 1987, AXIS has performed more than 60 repertory works, three of which—“The Reflective Surface,” “The Narrowing” and “what if would you”—will unfold at Motion Pacific on Oct. 12 and 13.

AXIS is known for its impressive lifts, physical contact and counterbalances between dancers. And in Motion Pacific’s intimate studio, Santa Cruz audiences will have the opportunity to view the meticulous and expressive movements executed by the company up-close, as well as engage with the performers in pieces like Victoria Marks’ “what if would you.”

Marks and Amy Seiwert (creator of “The Reflective Surface”) were both hired by AXIS to choreograph pieces specifically for the company’s dancers. Since taking over the artistic director position in 2001, Judith Smith has regularly brought in outside choreographers to diversify AXIS’ body of work, which also features internally generated pieces, like AXIS dancer Sebastian Grubb’s “The Narrowing.”

“When the company changed leadership, my goal was to convince critics that we were doing a viable art form, and not therapy,” explains Smith. “We started commissioning well-known choreographers and our work changed radically from being pieces that were often directly about disability, to not doing pieces about disability at all.”

As a founding member, Smith recalls the early days of the company, when AXIS dancers created all of their own work and did not receive the acclaim that the physically integrated group does now. She notes that the inclusion of outside choreography and removal of pieces that centered on disability allowed for more serious critique. That, and the expectation-shattering work the company produced, convinced funders and audiences that AXIS’ productions could never be considered anything but dance.

“We started out interested in dance and while we realize that there is a social and political implication to what we do, that’s not why we started AXIS,” Smith says. “We’re not a wheelchair dance company and we’re not a disabled dance company. We’re a contemporary dance company that does physically integrated work.”

ae1-2AXISAt AXIS, individuals with and without disabilities work together to present elaborate dance pieces that destroy preconceived notions about what the body can do.As AXIS dancers themselves, Giles and Smith agree that physically integrated dance allows them to do things that more traditional dance companies cannot. Non-disabled dancers naturally come from similar training backgrounds, body shapes, and body movements—a uniformity that AXIS casts off with pleasure.

“I can do lifts with any dancer, but doing a lift with Joel [Brown] who is on his wheels gliding through space, is obviously going to be a different experience than being lifted by someone who is standing on their two feet,” says Giles. “There are different physics involved, but it’s still physics.”

For Smith, who was disabled by a car accident at the age of 17, the joy of AXIS comes from dancing with bodies that move differently from her own.

“When you start including how wheelchairs move and how crutches work and how dancers move with and without a prosthetic, it just radically expands the possibilities,” explains Smith. “Instead of being a limitation, we can do things that a company of dancers on all feet can’t do.”

Prior to its show on Oct.13, AXIS will hold a community-based workshop, open to anyone with an interest in creative movement, regardless of ability or dance skill level, at Motion Pacific. Giles notes that in both the performances and the workshop, the goal is to teach people that dance should be inclusive.

“We redefine dance by breaking a mold and presenting the important questions that come with that,” says Giles. “Afterward I always feel like people go away having dialogues about what they saw and the social layer under beautiful bodies doing beautiful things.” 


AXIS performs at 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 12 and 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct.13 at Motion Pacific, 131 Front St., Ste. E, Santa Cruz. Tickets are $17/adv, $19/door. Student and senior discount available. The workshop will be held from 12:30-2:30 p.m. on Sunday, Oct.13 at Motion Pacific. $20. For tickets, details and to register for the workshop, visit motionpacific.com, or call 457-1616.
Photos: #1 Matt Haber #2 David DeSilva

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Is This a Dream?

A beginner’s guide to understanding and exploring the uncanny world of lucid dreams

 

Giving and Giving, Then Giving Some More

2014 is almost over. Wednesday, Dec. 17, the Jewish Festival of Light, Hanukkah, begins. We are in our last week of Sag and last two weeks of December. Sunday, Dec. 21 is winter Solstice, as the sun enters Capricorn (3:30 p.m. for the west coast). Soon after, the Capricorn new moon occurs (5:36 p.m. for the west coast)—the last new moon of 2014. Sunday morning Uranus in Aries (revolution, revelation) is stationary direct (retro since July 22). Uranus/Aries create things new and needed to anchor the new culture and civilization (Aquarius). We will see revolutionary change in 2015. Capricorn new moon, building-the-personality seed thought, is, “Let ambition rule and let the door to initiation and freedom stand wide (open).” Capricorn is a gate—where matter returns to spirit. But the gate is unseen until the Ajna Center (third eye), Diamond Light of Direction, opens. Winter solstice is the longest day of darkness of the year. The sun’s rays resting at the Tropic of Capricorn (southern hemisphere) symbolize the Christ (soul’s) light piercing the heart of the Earth, remaining there for three days, till Holy Night (midnight Thursday morning). Then the sun’s light begins to rise. It is the birth of the new light (holy child) for the world. A deep calm and stillness pervades the world.The entire planet is revivified, re-spiritualized. All hearts beating reflect this Light. And so throughout the Earth there’s a radiant “impress” (impressions, pictures) given to humanity of the World Mother and her Child. The star Sirius (love/direction) and the constellation Virgo the mother shines above. For gift giving, give to those in need. Give and give and then give some more. This creates the new template of giving and sharing for the new world.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Stocking Stuffers

The men behind the women of the Kinsey Sicks Dragapella Beautyshop Quartet explain their own special brand of ‘dragtivism,’ and their holiday show at the Rio
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Tramonti Pizza

Why there’s no such thing as too much Italian food in Seabright

 

Guitar or surfboard?

Guitar. The closest thing I ever came to surfing was sliding down a rock hill. Charlie Tweddle, Santa Cruz, Hats and Music

 

Fortino Winery’s Intriguing Charbono

At the opening celebration of the new Santa Clara Wine Trail in August, one of the wineries we visited was Fortino. This is where I first tasted their intriguing estate-grown Charbono—a varietal that is one of the rarest in California, with only 80 acres grown statewide.

 

Beyond the Jar

How Tabitha Stroup has built her rapidly expanding jam empire