When I think of dance, I think of Gene Kelly and his athletic style. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and their beautiful partnership. And thanks to Bodies of Work, a festival of Disability Arts and Culture that has been everywhere in Chicago for the last couple of weeks, I also think of Ginger Lane. And Kris Lenzo.
Ginger and Kris are dancers who happen to have disabilities. They dance with Momenta, an integrated dance troupe of dancers with and without disabilities who blow the lid off what it means to be a dancer. And, they make us question what exactly does “disabled” mean in the context of dance and performance, anyway?
Last week, watching them perform, I learned that in dance there is no “able-bodied” or “disabled”–there is just dance. Kris and Ginger were part of Counter Balance IV at Access Living last weekend. It was an evening of dance, poetry, and performance art so visually stunning and emotionally moving that I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who left that evening thinking “I want to dance!”
Ginger, a lifelong dancer prior to her spinal cord injury years ago, brings her bodily intuition and grace to every performance. Emotion oozes from every gentle turn of her wrist as she flies around the floor, power wheelchair silently gliding as her dance partners hop lithely on and off her lap, the back and arms of the chair.
Kris, a wheelchair basketball and track athlete for many years, brings an athleticism and sense of fun to the floor. He performs one dance with various pieces and part of his wheelchair, balancing on the frame, spinning the wheels, spinning on top of the wheels…..creating a sense of freedom and flight and movement that is so far from the terminology of “confined to a wheelchair” and “wheelchair-bound” that it seems the perfect time to permanently erase them from our vocabulary.
The Festival, which includes theater, dance, poetry, photography, and performance art, continues through Saturday, May 25th. Find out more about it here: www.bodiesofworkchicago.org. Learn more about Ginger, Kris and Momenta here: www.momenta-dance.org.