On May 10, 1899, in the town of Omaha, Nebraska, the trailblazing talent named Fred Astaire was born. He brought beauty and artistry to the lives of millions who escaped the world, if only for a moment, by slipping inside a darkened cinema to be transported to his world of seemingly effortless dynamic movement.
But we all know that while Astaire may have made it look easy, it required hours of hard work and determination. Astaire continues to bring beauty to the lives of many as his legacy is handed down through Fred Astaire Dance Studios. And to celebrate his birthday, let’s gift Fred with videos of other dancers who are blazing their own trails — and making it look effortless!
Leading the way for dancers with disabilities, Alice Sheppard is blazing new frontiers. Her latest project, “DESCENT,” involves dancers in wheelchairs and is about “obliterating assumptions of what dance, beauty, and disability can be… ” “DESCENT” was honored with “Dance” magazine’s Readers Choice for Most Moving Performance of 2018. Up next for this trailblazer: Sheppard will dance with robots to “explore the connection between human and machine” at the MAX Space Festival in San Francisco. To learn more about her, you can visit www.alicesheppard.com.
We know the benefits of ballroom dancing on all fronts, and the organization Dancing Classrooms is working to bring those benefits to schoolchildren across the country. The mission is clear: “to cultivate essential life skills in children through the joyful art and practice of social dance.” Benefiting primarily fifth- and eighth-grade children, Dancing Classrooms is an in-school program that teaches students respect for themselves and others through the teaching of ballroom dance. The program inspired the 2005 documentary film, “Mad Hot Ballroom.”
She is shattering stereotypes and redefining what it means to be a ballet dancer. Misty Copeland made history when she was named as the first African American Female Principal Dancer with the American Ballet Theatre. Copeland has since become a household name and has even started her own production company and helped develop a clothing line that bears her name. Still, she doesn’t forget the hard work that brought her to the point she is at now, nor what it means to people. Talking to ESPN, Copeland says, “The ballet world has been slow to progress. But things are changing. I’ve always seen myself as mentoring people on stage. I understand what I represent to young women of color.”
BIG RED DANCE PROJECT
At what age does artistic expression end? This dance collective, known as the “Big Red Dance Project,” has an answer for that: NEVER! Founded by Gerri Houlihan, the collective is working to expand the notion of “who can dance.” Based in Durham, North Carolina, dancers in the collective range in age from 78 to 38. They perform original works of modern dance, happy to bring to the stage expressions and movements by a demographic not often seen by audiences. Says dancer Linda Belans, “As I begin my 74th circle around the sun, I am over the moon to still be dancing!