Dance Magazine, "Keep On Turning: New Artistic Director Marc Brew has big plans for AXIS."

Written by Claudia Bauer. October 2017.

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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.

AXIS DANCE COMPANY FOUNDER JUDITH SMITH SHAKES THINGS UP WITH APPOINTMENT OF NEW ARTISTIC DIRECTOR MARC BREW

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                         Marc Brew in For Now I Am (Roy Tan) 

                         Marc Brew in For Now I Am (Roy Tan) 

                                          Judith Smith (Sandy Morris)

                                          Judith Smith (Sandy Morris)

2017 will be a year of change for the groundbreaking dance company as it marks its 30th anniversary and co-founder Smith turns her considerable energy and attention toward advocacy for the organization as well as people with disabilities (PWD's) in the world of the performing arts, while Brew concentrates on providing the context and artistic rigor that allows virtuosity to manifest and flourish as a means of expanding the boundaries of integrated dance; for the first year Brew will split his time between the Bay Area and Glasgow, Scotland where the native Australian currently lives and runs his own company
 
The first home season under the new Artistic Director is scheduled for October 26-29, 2017; 
Winter/Spring touring dates include NYC and Boston www.axisdance.org.

Oakland CA, January 4, 2017— AXIS Dance Company, the country’s leading physically integrated dance company, is proud to announce the appointment of a new Artistic Director, Marc Brew. Judith Smith passes the torch after close to 20 years, as she moves into a multi-faceted advocacy role as Founder & Director.
 
While Smith first became aware of Brew close to twenty years ago, his first official encounter with AXIS was in 2011, when he came stateside to choreograph the extremely well received Full of Words, "which got me hooked on the virtuosity, passion and dedication of the company.”
 
At 20 years of age, while enjoying a blossoming professional dance career, Brew was injured in a head-on car collision while dancing with PACT Ballet in South Africa that left him paralyzed from the chest down with a spinal cord injury and using a wheelchair. “But” as he recently told the BBC Arts for a profile on him and his accomplished career, “I was still a dancer. I couldn’t just stop because I couldn’t walk anymore.”

                                           Marc Brew in For Now I Am                              (Tristram Kenton for The Guardian)

                                           Marc Brew in For Now I Am
                             (Tristram Kenton for The Guardian)

And indeed he went on to become a prolific international choreographer and dancer. While he will continue to call Glasgow, Scotland (where he runs his own Marc Brew Company) home for the foreseeable future, in May of this year he will begin spending the majority of his time—approximately 9 months each of the next two years—here in the Bay Area.

In 2016, The Guardian in the UK listed Brew's For Now I Am as one of the top 10 dance performances of the year, in which the writer notes the "exhilaration and triumph" of the performance. View article

 


“I want to build the company from the strong foundation that has been laid by Judith and previous company members over the last three decades,” says Brew. “That means working with the very committed artistic and administrative team to make a difference in both the art form and for our community by raising the company's standard of high quality work, commissioning new and relevant choreographers and teachers, and developing community engagement, partnerships and professional dance opportunities in order to take this important work to main stages and festivals, both nationally and internationally.”


Under the stewardship of Smith, using a strategy built on artistic, engagement and advocacy touchstones, AXIS has become a well-known and hugely respected entity in contemporary dance with an impressive repertory that has evolved over the last 30 years. “I’m so proud of what we’ve managed to accomplish,” says Smith, “but there is still a lack of opportunity for PWD’s in both dance and society. And while there is increased awareness of integrated/inclusive dance, there are still many opportunities yet to be explored. My new role allows me to pursue those, all while knowing the company’s artistic destiny is in the hands of someone as talented and driven as Marc. This is about the future.”
 
“Investing in the future of our Artistic programs is essential for AXIS as a leader in the physically integrated dance community and as a model for our education partners” says Jeanie Bunker, AXIS Board President. “I am excited about Marc Brew joining AXIS. This ensures the advancement of the world renowned artistry of AXIS.”

AXIS has toured all through the United States as well as Europe, and in the process worked with a slate of choreographers that any dance company would envy, including:

  • Marc Brew
  • Ann Carlson
  • Sonya Delwaide
  • David Dorfman
  • Joe Goode
  • Joanna Haigood
  • Margaret Jenkins
  • Bill T. Jones
  • Alex Ketley
  • Victoria Marks
  • Stephen Petronio

AXIS Dance Company’s 2017 Home Season is scheduled for October 26-29, 2017; Winter/Spring touring dates include NYC and Boston.
 
Image Library can be found HERE 


About Marc Brew

Acclaimed International choreographer Marc Brew trained as a professional dancer at the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School and The Australian Ballet School. He has been working in the UK and Internationally for the past 19 years as a director, choreographer, dancer, teacher and speaker; with the Australian Ballet Company, State Theatre Ballet Company of South Africa, Infinity Dance Theatre, CandoCo Dance Company and as Associate Director with Scottish Dance Theatre and Guest Artistic Director with AXIS Dance Company. Since 2008 Marc has been dedicating time to his own choreography with Marc Brew Company and is currently Associate Artistic Director with Ballet Cymru in Wales and was Associate Artist in 2015 at Tramway Theatre in Glasgow, Scotland where he is now based.  Recent choreographic commissions include Scottish Ballet, Ballet Cymru, AXIS Dance Company (USA), Candoco Dance Company (UK), Touch Compass (NZ), Amy Seiwert’s Imagery (USA), GDance, Scottish Dance Theatre, Greewnwich & Docklands International Festival and City of London Festival (UK). Marc was featured by Time Out Magazine as the best of the new breed of London’s Rising Dance Talent and was presented with a Centenary Medal for Outstanding Contribution as a dancer and choreographer. His work Remember When was nominated for an Isadora Duncan Dance Award for Best Performance (individual) and his recent solo work For Now, I am… was listed in the Guardians Top 10 Dance Shows for 2016. More information
www.marcbrew.com

About Judith Smith

Judith Smith, Founder and Director of AXIS Dance Company, was born and raised in Colorado. Prior to becoming disabled in a car accident at age 17 in 1977, Judith was a champion equestrian. She transferred her passion for riding to dance after discovering contact improvisation in 1983. She has earned an international reputation in the field of physically integrated dance. Judith has commissioned works by some of the nation’s best choreographers and composers and has helped to create one of the field’s most extensive integrated dance education/outreach programs.
 
Her advocacy work led to the first-ever National Convening on the Future of Physically Integrated Dance in the USA, followed by six regional town halls throughout the country in 2016. This project was supported by the prestigious Doris Duke Charitable Foundation National Project Program. She serves on numerous conference panels, arts review panels and is on the advisory board of the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography, The National Art and Disability Center, Dancers’ Group and Bates Dance Festival.
Judith has received the 2010 Dreamspeakers’ Award, the 2009 Alameda County Arts Leadership Award, KQED’s Local Hero and the Homer Avila danceAble awards in 2005 and Artship Foundation’s Local Hero award in 1999.  She was honored with an Isadora Duncan Dance Award for Sustained Achievement in 2014, the O2 Initiatives Sabbatical Award in 2015 and in 2016 she was honored as one of Theatre Bay Area’s 40 people that have changed the face of Bay Area theatre. In her spare time, Judith raises butterflies and is actively involved in thoroughbred racehorse rescue and adaptive carriage driving.

About AXIS Dance Company

AXIS Dance Company exists to change the face of dance and disability through Artistry, Engagement and Advocacy. Founded in 1987, AXIS is the nation’s most acclaimed ensembles of performers with and without disabilities.  Based in Oakland, CA and in its 30th year AXIS’ list of collaborators includes Bill T. Jones, Stephen Petronio, Yvonne Rainer, Ann Carlson, David Dorfman, Marc Brew, Meredith Monk, Joan Jeanrenaud and Fred Frith. AXIS has toured to over 100 cities in US, Europe and Russia. The Company has received seven Isadora Duncan Dance Awards and has appeared twice on FOX TV's So You Think You Can Dance, exposing their important and relevant work of physically integrated dance to millions. Through education and outreach programs thousands of children and adults of all ages and abilities are inspired to dance each year. For more information visit axisdance.org.

DANCE MAGAZINE FEB 2016

BEYOND ABILITY

AXIS TAKES ADVANTAGE OF PHYSICAL DIFFERENCES TO SPUR CREATIVITY.

By Lauren Wingenroth
Photography By Kyle Froman

Watching Dwayne Scheuneman and Keon Saghari partner is like watching contact improvisation meet parkour. She climbs up his body and balances on his shoulders as if they were just another floor. The two dart in a tight, quick circle, and then he flies across the stage, rounding each corner with dangerous speed. Rather than being seen as a limitation, Scheuneman’s wheelchair is leveraged as a choreographic tool. Twenty-nine years ago, before “diversity” was a dance world buzzword, before the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law, AXIS Dance Company was making work that challenged ideas about whose bodies were capable of dancing. Now the country’s premiere physically integrated company (both disabled and nondisabled dancers perform), AXIS still leads the push for more-inclusive dance, working with choreographers like Bill T. Jones, Kate Weare and David Dorfman to create one-of-a-kind pieces that couldn’t be replicated by your average modern dance company. The headlining work of the Oakland-based troupe’s current tour, to go again by Joe Goode, explores the experiences of combat-injured veterans and their families. Goode’s signature dance-theater blend tells their stories using text from interviews conducted by the choreographer and the dancers. The performers speak and sing about the veterans’ resilience while moving through phrases that reflect the trauma of war. The dancers’ bodies hold hints of their own trauma, and suggest their own resilience as disabled movers.

Watching Dwayne Scheuneman and Keon Saghari partner is like watching contact improvisation meet parkour. She climbs up his body and balances on his shoulders as if they were just another floor. The two dart in a tight, quick circle, and then he flies across the stage, rounding each corner with dangerous speed. Rather than being seen as a limitation, Scheuneman’s wheelchair is leveraged as a choreographic tool.

Twenty-nine years ago, before “diversity” was a dance world buzzword, before the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law, AXIS Dance Company was making work that challenged ideas about whose bodies were capable of dancing. Now the country’s premiere physically integrated company (both disabled and nondisabled dancers perform), AXIS still leads the push for more-inclusive dance, working with choreographers like Bill T. Jones, Kate Weare and David Dorfman to create one-of-a-kind pieces that couldn’t be replicated by your average modern dance company.

The headlining work of the Oakland-based troupe’s current tour, to go again by Joe Goode, explores the experiences of combat-injured veterans and their families. Goode’s signature dance-theater blend tells their stories using text from interviews conducted by the choreographer and the dancers. The performers speak and sing about the veterans’ resilience while moving through phrases that reflect the trauma of war. The dancers’ bodies hold hints of their own trauma, and suggest their own resilience as disabled movers.

“It’s very difficult to show up at dance class and expect that it’s going to work for you, that the person teaching is not going to freak out, and will be able to teach in a way that someone like me can translate the material,” says artistic direct Judith Smith, who has been wheelchair-bound since a car accident at age 17. And yet, movement has immense rewards for those who have experienced debilitating losses. Scheuneman says that after severely injuring his neck in 1995, “dance helped me understand my new body and improved my ability to navigate in a wheelchair.” AXIS’ process isn’t much different from that of other modern repertory groups: They use the same improvisational activities, the same weight-sharing exercises, as you’d find at any other company. “There’s just a learning curve with figuring out how somebody in a wheelchair moves, or what our balance issues are, or how crutches work,” says Smith. That’s part of where AXIS’ rich movement vocabulary comes from. “When you have a cast of people who move differently and use adaptive equipment, you have this incredibly varied spectrum of movement to steal from,” says Sophie Stanley, a nondisabled dancer. “It could be the way Dwayne’s wheelchair swoops in a big, circular motion. I might want to emulate that beautiful curve.” But rather than just celebrating the integration of disabled dancers with nondisabled dancers, AXIS values each individual. “Every company is different,” Scheuneman says. “I bring my wheelchair to the group, that’s my offering. But everyone has a background. Mine is just more obvious.” Stanley adds: “It’s not about there being this one type of person and this other type of person. It’s about five or six very different people coming together to create something.”

“It’s very difficult to show up at dance class and expect that it’s going to work for you, that the person teaching is not going to freak out, and will be able to teach in a way that someone like me can translate the material,” says artistic direct Judith Smith, who has been wheelchair-bound since a car accident at age 17. And yet, movement has immense rewards for those who have experienced debilitating losses. Scheuneman says that after severely injuring his neck in 1995, “dance helped me understand my new body and improved my ability to navigate in a wheelchair.”

AXIS’ process isn’t much different from that of other modern repertory groups: They use the same improvisational activities, the same weight-sharing exercises, as you’d find at any other company. “There’s just a learning curve with figuring out how somebody in a wheelchair moves, or what our balance issues are, or how crutches work,” says Smith.

That’s part of where AXIS’ rich movement vocabulary comes from. “When you have a cast of people who move differently and use adaptive equipment, you have this incredibly varied spectrum of movement to steal from,” says Sophie Stanley, a nondisabled dancer. “It could be the way Dwayne’s wheelchair swoops in a big, circular motion. I might want to emulate that beautiful curve.”

But rather than just celebrating the integration of disabled dancers with nondisabled dancers, AXIS values each individual. “Every company is different,” Scheuneman says. “I bring my wheelchair to the group, that’s my offering. But everyone has a background. Mine is just more obvious.” Stanley adds: “It’s not about there being this one type of person and this other type of person. It’s about five or six very different people coming together to create something.”

U.S. EMBASSY TEL AVIV, ISRAEL

חשבתם שכסא גלגלים ומחול לא הולכים ביחד? תחשבו שוב! והנה ההוכחה:You thought that wheelchairs and dance don't go together? Think again! And here's proof:AXIS Dance Company #disabilitydance #Dancebringsustogether

Posted by U.S. Embassy Tel Aviv, Israel on Tuesday, January 26, 2016