a powerful bridge for our students

One of my favorite components of AXIS' education program is our in-school assembly. What better way to give you an experience of what an assembly is like by sharing this story by the principal from one of the schools we recently visited. - Annika Nonhebel AXIS Dance Company Assembly By Laura Shain, Principal

We came together last week, kindergarten through eighth grade, to enjoy and learn from a performance in the gym with the AXIS Dance Company. This assembly was sponsored by our Diversity Leadership Group after our teacher Mary Kay was inspired by a performance one evening in Oakland last fall.

The AXIS Dance Company dancers performed excerpts from their longer pieces and spoke to us about the connection between the word axis and access. We were moved by dances that integrated two wheelchairs – one motorized and one manual. The dances evoked emotion as only dance can – the beauty of the first dance brought tears to some eyes. The dancers incorporated the wheelchairs into the pieces by choreographing movements that utilized new possibilities.

We learned about our visiting dancers; how they came to the dance company and how dance is important to their lives. Perhaps most importantly, we were able to see beyond the wheelchairs, and the students were given an access point to know the dancers in the chairs.

During one dance, volunteers were brought up from the audience. Students partnered with the AXIS Dance Company dancers and were invited to connect physically, then to connected with another pair to form a new shape. This touching through dance was a powerful bridge for our students. When the assembly ended, many students rushed to the stage to talk with the dancers.They asked about their experiences and made personal connections as they met up close.

(From the AXIS website)  "AXIS Dance Company, one of the world’s most acclaimed and innovative ensembles of performers with and without disabilities, will change the way you think about dance and the possibilities of the human body forever. Founded in 1987, AXIS has become a jewel of contemporary dance and disability culture. AXIS has paved the way for a powerful contemporary dance form - physically integrated dance - performing nationwide, as well as in Europe and Siberia."

Prior to the passage of IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) in 1975 and its amendments in 1977, disabled students were often segregated from regular education students and in many cases did not attend school at all. Inclusion promotes higher achievement academically and behaviorally and affords students the basic right of access to education. General education students also benefit from the exposure to students who learn differently and have different abilities. Teachers present material in new ways that benefit all students, such as with more thorough visual support and repetition. General education students develop empathy and acceptance, as well as learning to relate and interact to diverse peers. They also learn peer tutoring skills that boost their self-esteem. They grow up more able to create positive communities for all.

Larry’s Open Classroom first and second grade students wrote poems for the dance performers after the assembly. (This is a selection Includes minor editing for readability.)

Students' poems

Joel’s Dance by Dyson Dance Joel Dance! He is great Dance! Joel Dance! I love his Dance Dance! Joel Daaaaaaaaaance!!!!!!!!

Dance at Dawn by Hudson I dance all the time I dance on my bed Dance at night oops I think I stepped in cement I jump when I dance Dance at night I like to dance I dance slow and I dance fast Dance at night and dance in the day.

Axis Dance by Jubilee Sonsheree's on her hands… AXIS dance Joel’s on the ground… AXIS dance And they’re racing down the stage AXIS dance

Dance at Dark by Taylor I danced on stage Dance at dark very scared Crowd staring at me Dance at dark oh no! I missed a step! Dance at dark but I still dance.

Dance Dog Dance by Will Mom dance with me no… Dance dog dance Please dance with me no… Dance dog dance Please dance with me… Dance dog dance.

When I Dance by David When I dance I’m happy. When I dance I’m excited. When I dance I smile. When I dance I dance by myself. When I dance I move my feet. When I dance I dance to a rhythm.

Ballet Ballet by Skyler I am 8 it is May Ballet is great to me Big performances twirling Revele Plié Ballet is great I have so much fun. Dance in the Dark by Amber Dance in the dark I love To dance with the stars I love To twirl and spin I love to dance in the dark