Physically integrated dancing is the overarching term for styles and programs of dance that include and incorporate dancers of varying degrees of physical ability. One of the earliest professional dance companies to focus specifically on wheelchair-based dance routines is the Dance Wheels company of Cleveland, Ohio. Founded by Mary Verdi-Fletcher in 1980, the troupe include dancers both in wheelchairs and out, and pioneered many of the facets of this burgeoning art form. Mary was born to a musician and a dancer, and clearly this vocation was in her blood. However, Mary was also born with spina bifida, which left her unable to walk. Mary still achieved her goal of becoming a dancer, one of the first recognized professional dancers to use a wheelchair, and then went on to found her own company.
Coincidentally, the girls of the Revere Dance Studio’s Wonders on Wheels program also hail from Ohio. The competitive dance program caught the nation’s eye with their prize-winning choreography, set to Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On, from the film Titanic.
The song was selected by the girls as a tribute to Katie Boyle, a fellow Wonders on Wheels dancer who sadly passed away in October. Katie was a huge fan of the French-Canadian singer and the group felt the song would be both a fitting tribute to their friend and, symbolically, exactly what she would hope for the rest of the team. Katie must have been there in spirit because during the performance’s debut, the girls took home first prize.