The old saying goes that if you can walk, you can dance. But as performers from the Young Dance Company proved during “Stories” at the Lab Theater last weekend, even people in wheelchairs can get their body moving to the music.
Since 1987, Young Dance has provided dance training and performing opportunities for youths under 18, but in 2010, the organization additionally began offering programming for youths and adults living with disabilities through the All Abilities program. The All Abilities dancers, a group that included several performers in wheelchairs, proved extraordinary as they moved around the stage in a rolling ballet, finding spiraled paths along the floor.
Friday night’s gala performance was punctuated by the storytelling of Kevin Kling, who shared an insightful story about being a boy and wanting to reach up to the stars, and how creativity was often suppressed for young people when he was a kid.
The theme of allowing young people to express the creativity inside of them echoed throughout the show, in work choreographed by a slew of noteworthy choreographers — including HIJACK (Kristin Van Loon and Arwen Wilder), Stuart Pimsler, Joe Chvala, associate director Justin Jones and artistic director Gretchen Pick. In addition, some pieces were created by the performers.
The young dancers are still developing and training, but there are certain advantages they have over professionals, including natural vulnerabilities and intense imaginations. The pieces that really tapped into those assets were the most fun to watch. “Carnegie Hall,” choreographed by HIJACK, used music by Simon and Garfunkel to allow the young performers to really play in an imagined world. “Mondegreen 2 (Porkchops),” choreographed by Brian Evans and the dancers, included some exuberant karate chops as well as stories by the young performers. Stuart Pimsler’s piece, “Heroes Abound,” revealed an incredible tenderness in a work created with the young performers paired with their parents.
Of all the stories told throughout the evening, it was the ones told by the All Abilities dancers that were the most captivating. In “Our Story,” the dancers incorporated text to share their own experiences. Their words, which were spoken by one performer and then echoed in a cacophony of sound by the others, showed incredible strength and bravery.
“I have a love for people, but I cannot express it verbally,” one dancer said. “I express it through dance.”
Sheila Regan is a Minneapolis writer.