Enter the Dance

Alyssa Sparacino

Verlezza Dance performed last night in E. Turner Stump Theatre, in the Music and Speech Center. Trained dancers, senior dancers from greater Cleveland and people with disabilities demonstrated beauty, expression, shape and form as part of DisAbility Awar

Credit: DKS Editors

Andrea Shearer stood before a nearly full E. Turner Stump Theatre last night and invited audience members to “expect the unexpected and prepare to ‘enter the dance.'”

Shearer, coordinator of the dance division within the School of Theatre and Dance, prepared the audience for Verlezza Dance, a company that performed seven pieces that highlighted the idea that anyone can dance.

The company incorporated dancers with various types of disabilities and some, including four Kent State dance students, with perceived full capabilities. Last night’s performance was part of DisAbility Awareness Week, which aims to recognize what people can do, instead of what they can’t.

Each piece included both “stand up” and “sit down” dancers, as the company refers to them.

Danielle Flickinger, a graduate assistant in the Office of Student Accessibility Services, said a lot of Americans don’t realize that people with disabilities can dance.

“We wanted to bring this to the forefront because people with disabilities have all different types of abilities and participate in all different walks of life,” she said. “There are so many different types of dance and so many different ways dance can be shown.”

When Shearer said to expect the unexpected, she wasn’t kidding. During the piece titled “Rosetta’s Dance,” 90-year-old Rosetta Karen performed a duet with Sabatino Verlezza, the artistic director of the company.

Recent injuries, including breaking both hips, left Karen in a wheelchair during the piece. The unexpected came at the end of the duet. With the help of Verlezza, Karen stood to her feet embracing him as if preparing to dance.

Karen walked off stage.

Nervousness wasn’t as issue for Karen, she said, even though it was her first performance.

Karen’s daughter, Rosetta Craig, who is involved with the company as an adult beginning dancer, said dancing is a way for her mom to get moving and is a great alternative to therapy.

“It demands things of me that I wouldn’t of myself,” Karen said.

Flickinger said the Office of Student Accessibility Services wanted to reach the general Kent State campus and the college demographic with this week’s events.

“We are so young, and in some cases we think we’re indestructible,” she said. “Some people don’t realize when they get out of bed in the morning they are going to walk or be able to see a sunset or the leaves changing colors.”

The final piece of the night included some audience participation that had Steve Michael, vice provost of diversity, among others, signing the word “angel.”

A sea of hands stretched out into the air to mimic the dancers’ movements. The piece was in dedication to a dancer in the company who passed away.

Michael said he was pleased to see that the performance was well-attended.

“It’s a way of getting everyone aware of the needs, the issues, the challenges of people with disabilities in our community,” he said. “Having a week of awareness is a powerful educational opportunity for all of us.”

Barbara Verlezza, assistant dance professor and a director of the company, said Verlezza Dance has opportunities for both dancers who want to train to become professionals and those who dance for simpler reasons.

“It’s about helping people enjoy their dreams and having equity in those dreams,” she said.

As for Karen, she said she will continue to dance as long as she is able.

“I enjoy it, especially when I get a dance partner,” she said.

Contact performing arts reporter Alyssa Sparacino at [email protected].