Why did you decide to form an integrated performance company?
AXIS grew out of a movement class for women who use wheelchairs taught by Thais Mazur who was the founding Artistic Director with us until 1997. We were simply a group of people, dancers and non-dancers with and without disabilities she gathered together to create a dance piece. The piece was well received and we kept getting offers to perform and requests for classes. Soon, we are all hooked, rehearsing regularly and putting an infrastructure together to support a dance company. We were very interested and exciting by the dance vocabulary that could be created by dancers with and without disabilities.
How do you cater to a wide range of disabilities?
We specialize in working with people with and without physical disabilities and this is the make-up of our performance company. We serve those with other disabilities through our performances and education/outreach work such as classes, workshops and presentations.
What does your company offer the public that other companies don’t?
We have a much different dance vocabulary because of the incorporation of people who are disabled and the different ways and apparatus that they use to move. We call what we do “physically integrated dance”, but it is also known as “mixed ability dance” or “adaptive dance”.
Can you explain your recruitment, audition process?
Sometime we hold auditions. But often we scout for dancers through our classes and workshops and by attending others’ classes and performances. Some of our dancers have contacted us and sent resumes and videotapes.
How many productions do you achieve in a year?
We average 1 home season production in the Bay Area of 3-4 performances; 3 in theatre performances for schools; 3 informal showings of students’ work; 36 school performances; 10-20 other shorter performances and shared events; we tour to 1-5 cities/year and occasionally internationally.
What were the initial obstacles you had to overcome?
People were confused about whether we were doing ‘art’ or ‘therapy’. There were and continue to be physical access issues in studios and theatres, both for performers and disabled audience. Attitudes are another obstacle as some people still don’t consider what we do to be ‘real’ dance.
Does a performer in your company take on other non-performance roles?
Yes. Several teach, choreograph and some also do administrative work. Our dancers are employed part-time and some on a project-to-project basis.
Do you have specific venues that you use?
No. We perform in many different theatres as well as alternative spaces though most of our work is created for a proscenium stage.
How many rehearsals do you do prior to a production?
This varies greatly depending on the length of the piece, how many dancers are involved, who the choreographer is and what their process is, but generally a work requires at least 60 hrs of rehearsal, others require much more.
Do you target a specific audience with your productions?
Our performances are targeted to the general public but we do extensive outreach to the dance community, the disability community, veterans, and health service providers.