Dancing Through Life
My mom had heard about the company though California Children’s Services (CCS) and soon thereafter, at the age of eight, I began taking the dance classes they offered for kids. At first I refused to participate in the class because I was shy, scared, and had no idea what to do or how to do it but, once I got over my fear of the unknown and on to the dance floor, nothing could persuade me to get off of it. Before I knew it, I had learned to dance both in and out of my wheelchair and felt completely comfortable doing so. By the time I was ten, I felt the need to challenge myself more, to push myself farther than I ever had before.
The first step I took toward fulfilling that need was joining the dance class AXIS created for teens. It was in that class that my passion for dance really began to grow and thrive. Through this class, I was given the opportunity to perform at the “Dance IS Festival” in Berkeley, California. This meant that I had to attend countless hours of rehearsal and put almost all the energy I had into making interesting shapes and movements. I had to create these shapes and movements with and without my wheelchair and have it flow together smoothly– and that’s exactly what I did.
The process of creating and performing the dance was tiring and fun, but most of all it was rewarding and made me realize exactly how much I loved to dance. I continued to participate in the teen classes for a few more years before I began to feel like I had gotten everything I needed and wanted to get out of them. It was then decided I would quit AXIS Dance Company, but it only took a few months after quitting that I realized I truly missed it. Needless to say, I started taking classes again! Recently, I have participated in AXIS’ adult classes called “intensives”. These are week long dance classes that last all day and workshops which last anywhere from one to three days.
Another reason I love AXIS, besides the fact that it’s a dance company, is that it portrays disability as a positive and useful thing. It challenges people’s preconceived notions of dance, or what they thought of dance before learning about AXIS, and forces them to look at disability in a way that they probably never have before. Also, by being awesome and creating amazing dance pieces, AXIS Dance Company proves to the disabled community, and has taught me, that not only does your disability not have to be a limitation, but it can work to your advantage as well. That knowledge is very valuable to me because it has helped me move forward in life and achieve goals that seemed impossible to reach by making me look at my disability in a different way.
If you are interested in getting involved in dance or other physically integrated recreational activities, you can visit http://www.axisdance.org, which has a list of dance companies similar to them, or Google “physically integrated recreational activities” in your area. Even if dance or recreational activity is not your “thing,” I would still encourage you to look into them because being a student of AXIS Dance has taught me a lot. One of the lessons that has stuck with me from the beginning is that you shouldn’t be afraid to try new things because trying new things opens doors to things you may end up loving.
About the author: Danielle Fellguth is a member of AXIS and serves on the KASA Advisory Board.