Santa Cruz Good Times

Tuesday
Sep 02nd
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

 

Mercury Enters Libra

It’s the week of Burning Man, the temporary, intentional, alternative, art-filled community on the playas of Nevada. Mercury, messenger of the Sun, enters Libra this week. Libra is the equalizer, a sign of balance and right human relations. Sometimes with Libra, we can be indecisive and confused while learning how to make balanced and right choices. Sometimes to keep the peace we communicate only what others want to hear. Eventually, we learn how to speak from the heart.

 

Final Cut

Cedar Street Video to close after 10 years at downtown location

 

Banter and Spark

Engaging actors, wry script distinguish lightweight rom-com ‘What If’

 

Back to Silicon Beach

With a new wave of startups, the future of Santa Cruz tech looks more promising than ever
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Himalayan Kitchen

Chef Purna Regmi on the secrets of Nepalese cooking

 

What’s the nicest thing you’ve done for someone this week?

Germany  |  Beekeeper

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

A Cab To Be Coveted

I first tasted Villa del Monte’s 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon at a Fourth of July party, where the hosts had bought a case of it because they love it and didn’t want to run out. It’s one of those wines that will grab you—in the best way—with its full body and rich fruit characteristics.