Santa Cruz Good Times

Saturday
Sep 05th
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

 

You Are What You Post

Online personality algorithms put astrological profiles to shame, but UCSC psychologists are raising questions about sharing personal data

 

Venus Direct, Mercury Retro Soon, Honoring Our Labors

As Burning Man (nine days, Aug. 30-Sept. 7 in the sign of Virgo) burns in the hot white desert sands, a petal of the rose created by retrograde Venus and the twelve-petaled Sun in Virgo’s petals unfold. All of us are on the burning ground (Leo) in the womb (cave of the heart) of the mother (Virgo), gestating for humanity once again (each year) a new state of consciousness. Both Virgo and Cancer, feminine (receptive energies) signs, are from our last solar system (Pleiades). When humanity first appeared on Earth we were nurtured by the mother, a matriarchy of energies (on islands in the Pacific). Eve, Isis and Mary are part of the lineages of our ancient Mother. Overseen by the Pleiades, the Earth (matter, mater, the mother) in that last solar system was imbued with intelligence (Ray 3). As we move toward autumn, another mother, Ceres realizes she has mere weeks left with her beloved daughter, Persephone. Persimmon and pomegranate trees prepare for autumn, their colors signs of hope as the light each day continues to dim. Sunday, Venus in Leo turns stationary direct, yet continues in her shadow until Oct. 9 (when retrograde Mercury turns direct). Slowly our newly assessed values emerge from the Venus retrograde. We thought in Venus retro how to use our resources more effectively. Mercury retrogrades Sept. 17. Monday is Labor Day. Let us honor the labor of everyone, all life a “labor.” Let us honor Labor Day and all those who have “served” (labored for) us this past year. We honor their labors. We honor the labor of our parents, those who have loved us. We honor our own labors, too. We are all in service, we are all laboring. We are all valuable.

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of September 4

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Sushi Garden

Local sushi empire expands to Scotts Valley

 

Do you overshare online?

I don’t think so. I just post things about my life, like successful things. Sometimes I just like sharing different news that I find interesting, or favorite artists, clothes, music. I like to post photos. Natalia Delgado, Santa Cruz, Server

 

McIntyre Vineyards

I recently met up with three friends for dinner at Sanderlings at Seascape Beach Resort. We chose to eat outside so we could watch the sun set over the ocean, but the Aptos fog rolled in and swallowed it up.

 

Sustainable Supper

The Homeless Garden Project’s Sustain Supper series supports its award-winning programs