Dance group will show people with disabilities can transcend limitations

Shantae Rollins

The Verlezza Dance Ensemble will highlight the capabilities of physically and developmentally disabled dancers as part of Disability Awareness month.

The performance will begin at 7 p.m. at the E. Turner Stump Theatre.

Sabatino Verlezza, choreographer of the modern dance company, established Verlezza Dance, a not-for-profit company, in 1989. He said the company welcomes dancers of all ages and ability levels who all share a common passion for dance.

“Verlezza is totally integrated to include everyone,” he said. “The body is an expressive language, and some things can only be said through dance.”

The dancers will showcase that people with disabilities can transcend physical limitations.

Verlezza said he and his wife worked with people who had disabilities and some of these students continued to work with the couple after they opened Verlezza Dance. He called it a “natural progression.”

“It felt right to include dance for everyone, rather than one particular style, as other companies do,” he said.

Allie Friedrich, a 33-year-old dancer who has cerebral palsy, has been a student of the Verlezzas for 10 years and a company member for the last 3 years.

“Dance does not always have to be different,” Friedrich said. “However, this year’s performance has even more diversity than last year. We have challenged ourselves as dancers and choreographers to push the boundaries of what is possible.”

Friedrich said she looks forward to using the performance as a way to inspire others and show that anything is possible.

“The point is that we’re not different,” she said. “The Verlezzas have created a place where we are all just people, and the studio and on stage are the only places in the world where I’m not disabled – I’m simply a dancer.”

Verlezza said the company focuses on the strengths and abilities of the dancers, rather than their limitations.

“Dance is a beautiful language,” he said. “Embracing our differences teaches an important lesson about inclusion.”

Friedrich said Verlezza Dance is “one of the most inclusive and all-embracive” dance performance companies in the United States.

“The sacrifice and dedication that goes into making Verlezza Dance happen is simply amazing,” Verlezza said. “We truly are a family who dreams to spread the message that dance is for all.”

Contact student affairs reporter Shantae Rollins at [email protected].