Sunday, April 2, 2017

92Y presents Overturning Expectations: Dance and Disability

Alice Sheppard
(photo: Britten Traughber)

Edisa Weeks's Overturning Expectations: Dance and Disability, curated for 92Y Harkness Dance Center's Fridays At Noon series this past week, drew upon the ability of dance artists with disabilities to take up the charge of Artist in the full sense of the word--to question, make with rigor, challenge self and audience, and nurture awareness of possibilities.

The event opened with two film screenings--choreographer Heidi Latsky's heady, striking Soliloquy (2015), featuring dancers of varying ages and abilities, and Karina Epperlein's short documentary, Phoenix Dance (2006), a profile of the late Homer Avila. If Latsky's film underscores the awesome force and sensuous beauty of dancers, Epperlein--through Avila, who lost a leg and hip to a rare form of cancer--shows us what goes into making a dancer, any dancer. Love, determination and discipline. Watching the one-legged Avila take daily class, watching his nimble work with duet partner Andrea Flores and choreographer Alonzo King, you revise your expectations of both the human body and the mind. Avila--whose spreading cancer took him from us at age 48--educated his audiences and colleagues well.

Dance artists Jerron Herman (Phys. Ed) and Alice Sheppard (So, I will wait and Trusting If/Believing When) might be polar opposites, at least by evidence of their respective solos. Herman's piece leans towards the athletic side of things. He is a dancer with Cerebral palsy's spastic condition, dystonia, noticeable in one arm and hand. Phys. Ed's repetitive nature--maybe a tad too lengthy and repetitive--has a down-to-earth, pedestrian feel despite his forceful jerking and jackknifing. Sheppard's solos here were infused with meditative, classical lyricism, her arms and torso arching and flexing into space above and around her wheelchair. Rather than an impediment to graceful movement, her wheelchair was both partner and a source of ability. Like Avila, she redirected our thoughts to the potent bodily and psychic strengths that make dance possible.

For information on upcoming Fridays at Noon programs at 92Y--including Moving Forward: Women Choreographers East and West, April 28--click here.

92nd Street Y
1395 Lexington Avenue (between 92nd and 93rd Streets), Manhattan

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