In a sling? Shake your thing

Saturday, January 24

Peter Stott Center Rm 207

10 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Suggested donation $5-15,

sliding scale, scholarships available

Most know the feeling, “I want to ask someone to dance, but I have two left feet.” Many have that sentiment compounded by a negative body image, age or daunting physical limitations.

Some have been left out entirely. Imagine taking the dance floor on wheels or with the aid of a walker or crutches.

DanceAbility is a program that levels the playing field. Saturday, anyone who has previously deemed themselves dance-incompatible will be guided through an introductory workshop presented by the Students with Disabilities Union. According to the DanceAbility website, the program “helps eliminate the prejudice that inhibits artistic and cultural diversity through performance, communication and education.”

“It’s not about whether it’s dance or art, pretty or not pretty. That’s irrelevant in this context,” Erik Ferguson, one of two teachers this Saturday, said. “It’s about total inclusion, all bodies. Those with limitations due to young or old age have responded well to this form because it provides equal footing.”

“The methods allow for performance at the level of humanity,” Ferguson said. “It allows for populations with disabilities, providing a common denominator for the group as a whole. It sprang from the New Dance movement and ‘anybody can’ politic.”

Founding teacher Alito Alessi of Eugene, Ore. initiated Contact Improvisation in 1979, then, in 1987, diverged to develop the Giant Forces dance company and DanceAbility. He now travels the world, teaching others how to teach artistic vision and diminish attitudinal barriers about disability.

“Exercises change to accommodate any new person that walks into the room,” Jody Ramey, co-coordinator for SDU, said. “If the group were using primarily visual cues and a blind person walked in, a different set of senses would come into play.”

The movement’s Web Site,, features still photos and streaming movies of past participants, and the results show grace and expression by performers with and without disabilities in collaboration.

This weekend’s encapsulated workshop is the third of its kind this school year and will be followed by a six-week series of two-hour lessons beginning Feb. 21.

For more information or to pre-register, call SDU, 503-725-5664 or email [email protected].