Community Voice: Everyone Can Dance



Community Voice: Everyone Can Dance


The Dance Detour dance company whose motto is Everyone Can Dance.
The Dance Detour dance company whose motto is Everyone Can Dance.
Alana Wallace, who lives with post-polio syndrome and uses a manual wheelchair, has always been a professional artist. But in 1995, at age 45, she witnessed an artistic performance that changed her life. The Cleveland Ballet Dancing Wheels, now called the 'Dancing Wheels' (http://www.gggreg.com/dancingwheels.htm), a professional physically integrated dance company, showed Alana that dance COULD be an option for people with disabilities to participate as full, equal, and legitimate participants without compromising the art.

After seeing the performance, Alana contacted the Cleveland Ballet Dancing Wheels and signed up to attend one of its summer camps. Though she left there discouraged because the particular movement techniques did not work well for her, she met people who encouraged her to return to Chicago and enlist professional dancers to experiment with her individual body movements. Alana did this, successfully, and Dance Detour was incorporated in 1996 with the company motto of 'Everyone Can Dance.'

Alana approaches dance from an artistic, not a health, perspective, although she readily acknowledges that it can decrease stress, increase muscle tone, increase physical stamina, decrease fatigue, and increase self-confidence (see this month's Secondary Conditions column at Non-Traditional Exercise as a Way of Preventing Secondary Conditions ). Alana feels that dance has allowed her body to avoid experiencing many secondary conditions that are often associated with post-polio syndrome. Post-polio is often confronted with the medical advice to decrease movement, but Alana feels dance has allowed her movement to actually increase. Dance also provides a social and creative outlet as well as a uniting and integrating experience with the other dancers, both those with and without disabilities. She also explains how dance increases brain activity and activates memory through the use of choreography. Ultimately, to Alana, dance's combination of effects makes it a transforming experience for the mind, body, and spirit.

As an activity, dance has the unique ability to allow an individual more control of his or her own movements, more so than other more traditional forms of exercise, sports, or physical activity. Movements may be altered based on current levels of pain and/or function. For example, the six dancers in Alana's company have disabilities varying from SCI to visual impairment, all accompanied by diverse and unpredictable secondary conditions and symptoms. Dance allows them to modify movements based on one's individual state of health on any given day. Her company does not use any sort of manual or guidebook, but rather allows dance to be completely individualized and self-expressive. Alana stresses that there is quality in all types of movement and shares that the only rule of Dance Detour is that dance partners with and without disabilities explore movement together as equals.

Alana stresses that people with disabilities are just as productive as people without disabilities, in all aspects of life, not just dance. Dance Detour and Alana help carry this important message through the performing arts and hope to reach people with and without disabilities to help them realize their own capabilities and endless possibilities.

For more information about Dance Detour, go to http://www.dancedetour.org/ or contact dancedetour@aol.com or 312-225-8824.

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