AXIS artistry redefines dance and disability.
Our Three Pillars
AXIS collaborates with high profile choreographers and innovative dance makers to create impactful and significant dance works. We build bridges between contemporary dance, integrated dance, and disability culture.
AXIS provides programming and events for all ages and abilities, and is a pre-professional training ground for aspiring disabled dancers and choreographers. For detailed information about our programs please visit our Engagement Overview
AXIS creates opportunities locally and abroad for disabled people to engage in dance by championing access, inclusion, and equity in dance and in the wider community.
About AXIS Dance Company
Led by Artistic Director Nadia Adame and Managing Director Danae Rees, AXIS is one of the nation’s most acclaimed ensembles of disabled, non-disabled and neurodiverse performers. AXIS was founded in 1987 and creates world-class productions that challenge perceptions and redefine dance and disability. The Bay Area, California-based company has toured over 100 cities in the US, Israel and Palestine, United Kingdom, Europe, United Arab Emirates, and Russia, and has received nine Isadora Duncan Dance Awards. AXIS commissions new work from a host of renowned international choreographers including Marc Brew, Arthur Pita, Robin Dekkers, Asun Noales, and Jennifer Archibald.
In tandem with a robust performance calendar, AXIS provides unparalleled integrated dance education and outreach programs. AXIS builds paths to dance education for disabled and non-disabled people of all ages, experiences, and spectrum of disabilities.
The brainchild of Thais Mazur, AXIS was founded in 1987 alongside disabled artists Judith Smith, Bonnie Lewkowicz, and others. AXIS was one of the first contemporary dance companies to develop choreography integrating physically disabled and non-disabled dancers.
In 1997 Judith took over Artistic Direction, and quickly made a name for AXIS in the dance world with a commission by Bill T. Jones, followed by over 35 commissions of other high-profile artists including Stephen Petronio, Victoria Marks, Ann Carlson, Joe Goode, and Yvonne Rainer.
Judith led the development of one of the field’s most extensive integrated dance education and outreach programs, with offerings serving all ages and abilities. In 2017 she passed the reins to acclaimed disabled international choreographer and dancer Marc Brew.
Marc choreographed four signature repertory works for the company, including his final work as Artistic Director, Roots Above Ground which premiered at the Company’s 2021 Home Season in San Francisco. He also commissioned Arthur Pita’s ambitious evening-length work, Alice in Californialand. At the end of 2021, Marc ended his tenure as Artistic Director as Nadia Adame, who started her international career as a disabled artist with AXIS in 2001, returned to lead the company.
Nadia brings over 20 years of experience in the dance and disability field to AXIS, and aims to increase the company’s international presence, commission more disabled choreographers, and expand the company’s youth engagement programming. Nadia strives to broaden AXIS’ reach beyond physically integrated dance, and cement AXIS as a hub for movement artistry that celebrates disabled and neurodivergent artists, audiences and participants of all backgrounds and experiences.
Artistic Director Emerita Judith Smith
Judith Smith, Founding Member and Director Emerita of AXIS Dance Company, is one of the world’s driving forces in physically integrated dance. She was born and raised in the mountains of 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. Judith helped launch AXIS in 1987 and she grew the Company to be the one of the world’s leading physically integrated dance ensembles. She has been instrumental in developing the field of integrated dance and bringing disability.
Under Judith’s direction from 1997-2017, AXIS commissioned more than 35 works from high profile artists including Bill T Jones, Stephen Petronio, Victoria Marks, Ann Carlson, Joe Goode, Remy Charlip, Kate Weare, Marc Brew and Yvonne Rainier; toured to over 100 cities; and appeared twice on FOX TV’S So You Think You Can Dance. She led the development of the field’s most extensive integrated dance education/outreach programs and launched cornerstone programs including in-school assemblies, Dance Access Day in-theater performances, Summer Intensive and an apprenticeship for disabled dancers.
Her advocacy and equity work led to the first-ever National Convening on the Future of Physically Integrated Dance in the USA in 2016, followed by six regional townhalls throughout the country. This project culminated in an extensive report, which is linked here, and the launch of the AXIS Artistic Advancement Platform to Advance Artistry, Opportunity and Equity for Dancers with Disabilities. She has been instrumental in the creation of the Dance/USA Deaf and Dance Affinity Group.
Judith has received many awards including an Isadora Duncan Dance Award for Sustained Achievement and the O2 Initiatives Sabbatical Award. She has been one of Theatre Bay Area’s 40 People That Have Changed the Face of Bay Area Theatre and was inducted into the Alameda County Women’s Hall of Fame. She is extremely honored and humbled to have received Dance/USA’s Honors Award in 2022.
Since retiring from AXIS in early 2018, Judith has continued work in the field of dance and disability. She also raises butterflies, drives carriage horses, is an avid hiker and birdwatcher and transports injured wildlife and feral cats for several organizations. She received her CA Naturalist certification and helps with a Birding for All program at Bay Area Outreach and Recreation Program. Her email is [email protected] .
Isadora Duncan Dance Awards
AXIS has been awarded the following ‘Izzies’ , which aim to celebrate the unique richness, diversity, and excellence of Bay Area Dance.
Learn more about the award program here.
Best Choreography –
Bill T. Jones, Fantasy in C Major, for AXIS Dance Company
Best Individual Performance –
Uli Schmitz for the entire program with Axis Dance Company at the Cowell Theater
Best Company Performance –
AXIS Dance Company for their entire program at the Cowell Theater
Best Costumes –
Mario Alonzo for AXIS Dance Company’s entire program at the Cowell Theater
Best Ensemble Performance –
Nadia Adame and Jacques Poulin-Denis in Sans Instruments (Sonya Delwaide) with AXIS Dance Company at the Alice Arts Center Theatre
Best Ensemble Performance –
Rodney Bell, Sonsheree Giles, To Color Me Different, AXIS Dance Company, 2008 WestWave Dance Festival
Best Choreography –
Joe Goode, the beauty that was mine/through the middle without stopping, AXIS Dance Company
Sustained Achievement Award –
Judith Smith, Artistic Director and founding member of AXIS Dance Company – an ensemble that includes dancers with and without disabilities – for her high artistic standards, innovative programming and deep commitment to community outreach and education. Smith has not only helped to bring physically integrated dance to the center of the Bay Area dance scene but she has also contributed to making the Bay Area an international center for physically integrated dance.
Sustained Achievement Award –
AXIS Dance Company, for 30 years of innovative artistry, sustained community engagement and steadfast local and international advocacy for dancers of all ages and abilities. AXIS led the charge to create inclusive movement spaces, and continues to provide opportunities for community empowerment in the Bay Area and beyond.