OKAY. We’ve made it. The sun is out and New Yorkers are down to party. Well, we’re always down to party but especially minus the twenty pound, full-length puffer jacket. Now it’s time to celebrate our freedom and what better way to do it than at NYC’s 9th annual Dance Parade 2015?
This year’s Dance Parade New York will be celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, an important civil rights legislation. Mary Verdi-Fletcher, Founder of Dancing Wheels, will be 1 of 4 Grand Marshals leading Dance parade. Dancing Wheels is an integrative dance company and school that collaborates both stand-up and sit-down dancers. As one of the first professional wheelchair dancers, Verdi-Fletcher is a teacher and advocate for people with disabilities and without disabilities. Over the span of over 3 decades, she has been the leading force behind the creation of Dancing Wheels School since 1990, has conducted master classes and lectures, consulted with arts institutions, and has developed state and national programs for the arts and disability service organizations.
MG: How did you get connected with Dance Parade and what about this event’s core values align with Dancing Wheels?
MVF: They actually found me somehow! I believe they were looking to be inclusive of all dance so they found Dancing Wheels on the Internet. We align closely with the event in that we are inclusive in many ways…ethnicity, age, gender, and physical ability.
MG: Have you or Dancing Wheels been part of such a large-scale event with so many dancers before or is this the first time?
MVF: We have not been in a parade before but the company has performed for the opening ceremonies of the Paralympics and on national TV with a live audience and on stage with many luminaries for the Christopher Reeve: a celebration of Hope, just to no name a few.
MG: What are you most excited about for Dance Parade?
MVF: Being in the mix of so many incredible dancers
MG: You’re a motivated, ambitious person. What has given you so much drive over the years?
MVF: I’m the type of person that puts 100 percent in whatever I do, but dance has been my passion for as long as I can remember. I see how it changes attitudes and perceptions and inspires others
MG: For those who are interested in the arts and face challenges, what advice would you give them, disabled and/or otherwise?
MVF: Do what ever inspires you, we all have some sort of artistry within is, even if we do not know it! Never let anyone tell you that you can’t. You can find a way to achieve your dreams.
MG: What are your future hopes for Dancing Wheels and yourself? Any future projects you have lined up?
MVF: [Dancing Wheels is celebrating] our 35th anniversary which coincides with the 25th anniversary of the ADA and we are producing a Legacy Concert Tour that is based on the 5 themes of the ADA. We hope to tour to 35 locations in the nation! We also have created and published a training manual that I am working to institute in universities throughout America.
MG: What has been the most rewarding experience with Dancing Wheels?
MVF: Seeing the joy it brings to so many and the inspiration and understanding it brings to the children
I personally found it very inspiring to learn about Mary’s story and her drive to succeed in whatever fills her heart. Dance Parade should definitely be given props because too often disability is left out of both the arts and diversity education. The truth is we all have limitations but it shouldn’t stop anyone from exploring their own personal expression. I think people need to see wheelchair dancers integrated in various capacities so that we can all learn about another and more varied perspective to the face of disability.
Dance Parade’s annual celebration of diversity and culture will be showcasing 75 styles of dance with over 10,000 dancers in the streets of New York City on Saturday May 16, 2015. The procession starts on 21st Street in Manhattan at 1:00pm and continues through Union Square to a Grandstand on 8th Street and University Place. The parade finale will end with DanceFest in Tompkins Square Park featuring 5 stages.