The Dancing Wheels Company

Bob Fletcher, Debbi Stanicki, Mary Verdi-Fletcher and Brian Verdi

Dancing Wheels Company & School held its 43rd season gala at Playhouse Square’s Allen Theatre on June 15, for nearly 300 guests, with a world premiere concert titled, “Allies in Action.”
The event included a VIP cocktail reception with entertainment by the Coastliners of the North Coast Men’s Chorus, as well as a donation ask, silent auction and school scholarship recipient recognition.
Founded by Artistic Director Mary Verdi-Fletcher in 1980, the dance company has been a pioneering force in the development and success of physically integrated dance worldwide for more than four decades. It is America’s first and foremost professional physically integrated company with a composition of professional stand-up and sit-down

Thomas Nebesar and Lisa DiBlasio with Betsy and Tim Cooper

(wheelchair-bound) dancers. Branded as the World Center for Integrated Dance & Arts Access, the company tours globally to more than 50 cities presenting dance works to audiences of 50,000 or more per year. The school, which opened in 1990, is the only multi-arts school in Ohio focused on inclusive classes in dance, movement and theater for children and adults.
The theme of allyship honors the accomplishments and support of artists in the LGBTQIA+ community whose work has paved the way for merited recognition and equality in the arts, despite facing discrimination and discourse.
Choreographers Alexis Diggs, Tiffany Mills, Mark Tomasic and company member McKenzie Beaverson presented works on the professional company members. Sara Lawrence-Sucato, Director of Education led the Performance Ensemble of school students in a piece titled, “Find Your People/I Need You.”
Ross Cameron, Board Chair and Robert Solich, Event Chair welcomed guests at the start of the stage performance. Craig Hassall, President and CEO of Playhouse Square spoke of the incredible work Dancing Wheels does to present inclusive arts in all aspects of participation, arts education, performance and choreographic advancement. Celebrity guest Christi Paul, WKYC-TV Channel 3 news anchor, recognized the bravery of the performers despite some of their disabilities, and emphasized that each and every artist deserves equality.
Following the performance, DJ Jeremy James spun disco sounds on the dance floor for a champagne and dessert after-party in the lobby with the artists. For more information about Dancing Wheels, visit dancingwheels.org. STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY ANDREA C. TURNER