Lani Dickinson's power, grace, and raw presence make her a standout with AXIS Dance Company, whose mission it is to change the face of dance and disability by featuring a mix of disabled and non-disabled performers. Born in China, Dickinson was adopted by an American couple and started dancing at 8 in Towson, MD. She attended the Boston Ballet School for two summers, studied at the Idyllwild Arts Academy for the last two years of high school, and graduated with a dance degree from Alonzo King LINES Ballet BFA program with Dominican University of California. In 2015, she joined AXIS and won a Princess Grace Award. Catch her this month during AXIS Dance Company's 30th Anniversary season--and read on for The Dirt!
Where do you feel the happiest?
Among nature: sitting at the park, bike riding along the coast, or hiking trails. My best adventure partner is my boyfriend Jake.
What's your go-to stress reliever?
Knitting is a hobby I picked up at a young age. I usually knit with the TV playing.
What's your favorite dance movie?
"Mao's Last Dancer" directed by Bruce Bereaford.
Who can always make you laugh?
My mom! She has been there to lift my spirit with song, sarcasm, or an extraordinary joke. I am a serious person. My mom is one of few people that can tickle me without getting her head bitten off.
Do you have any nicknames?
Yes. I like Lanlan.
Have you had any embarrassing moments onstage?
Plenty but I blocked them from my memory. The show must go on!
What's the strangest thing in your dance bag?
Chester's Flamin Hot Fries.
Do you have any pets?
I've have had two rats, two parakeets, guinea pigs, and three dogs. Oh, yeah, and two brothers (which is an inside joke between my mom and I).
Do you have any bad dance habits?
Looking down at the floor is my worst habit. There's nothing there! Yet I still do it.
Do you have any hidden talents?
I use my left toes/foot to do a lot of things such as tie shoes, knit, type on the computer, or hold things.
AXIS Dance Company Turns 30!
AXIS Dance Company will celebrate its 30th anniversary with a special program October 26-29 at Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts in Oakland, CA. Artistic Director Marc Brew will debut a new work in collaboration with Oakland-based JooWan Kim's hip-hop orchestra Mik Nawooj, and the company will also present a restaging of Amy Seiwert's The Reflective Surface. axisdance.org
Written by Claudia Bauer. October 2017.
Now in its 30th year, AXIS Dance Company, the pioneering physically integrated troupe in Oakland, California, is celebrating with a new artistic director, a new logo and expanded ambitions.
Australian-born Marc Brew, 40, took the helm this spring. A dancer, choreographer and filmmaker, Brew trained at The Australian Ballet School and was a 20-year-old professional dancer when he was paralyzed from the chest down in a car accident. He went on to form the Marc Brew Company and choreograph internationally; he made Full of Words, his well-received first AXIS work, in 2011.
"Marc knows the non-disabled dance world and the disabled dance world," says AXIS co-founder Judith Smith, who served as artistic director since 1977 and will continue in a new role as director, focusing on development and national advocacy. "Those qualities don't come along in a package very often, especially at the artistic level that Marc operates at."
Expanding artists' horizons is among Brew's top priorities. "Historically, disabled dancers came into dance through improvisation and contact work, because it wasn't about having to make specific shapes or techniques from an able-bodied version," he explains. "But disabled dancers want to learn what is ballet terminology, what is Cunningham terminology, and how does it apply to my body?" Brew also hopes to put AXIS on the international map with a possible 2018 UK tour and a collaboration with Australia's Expressions Dance Company.
Along with creating and commissioning original works, going forward AXIS will spearhead more public outreach and training for disabled dancers, choreographers and teachers. And after an October 26-29 home season in Oakland, the company will make its way to New York City for a November residency at Gibney Dance, which includes choreography intensive, master classes, town halls, teacher workshops and a performance series.
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