VSA Florida Explores a New Definition of Dance

The logo for A New Definition of Dance, featuring five small pictures of dancers with disabilitiesFrom October 14-26, 2016, VSA Florida will present “A New Definition of Dance,” a celebration of dance featuring internationally renowned dancers who have disabilities. With nearly two weeks of statewide events, “A New Definition of Dance” strives to break down negative stereotypes of people with disabilities, introduce students and veterans with disabilities to a new method of communication and self-expression, encourage dance majors to explore dance forms through varying types of bodies and abilities, and provide career development and professional opportunities for artists with disabilities.

VSA Florida Executive Director Jennifer Sabo said last year’s “A New Definition of Dance” grew out of a three-part idea their board member and University of South Florida (USF) dance professor, Merry Lynn Morris, had: to provide professional development for dancers with disabilities; to teach USF dance majors about differing bodies types; and to provide a world-class performance of mixed-ability dancers to the Tampa Bay community.  “It went so great,” says Sabo, “We decided to do a second year, this time expanding to three cities in two weeks and adding more artists from more countries.”

Sabo expects about 3,800 people to participate over the celebration, from school workshops to major performances, to a day-long conference on Saturday, October 22, entitled “Integrated Dance: Creating our Future, Merging our Strengths.” The conference is devoted to integrated/inclusive dance for educators, dancers, choreographers, teaching artists, policy makers, and advocates. Participation stipends are available; interested parties can apply online.

When asked what she is looking forward to the most, Sabo cites a hip-hop workshop she participated in last year with about 20 high school students with disabilities and Luca “Lazylegz” Patuelli. “Hopefully I get to participate in another school workshop!” she says, continuing, “I also thought the evening performance was one of the most incredible dance shows I’ve ever seen. Luca surprised us all by working with three young students in wheelchairs and having them join him on stage for a finale performance. It was amazing!”

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