AXIS Dance Company is known for its powerful visual mixed metaphors: arms, legs, wheels, and laps are each as exploitable as the next to create physically integrated choreography that is an entirely new landscape for contemporary dance. Some recent snapshots: a wheelchair on its side, wheels spinning, with a dancer lying across it, a dancer rising up on his back wheels, spinning furiously, rearing like a bronco, and a duet, one dancer in a chair, the other on her feet. Four of the eight AXIS dancers are disabled, allowing a “potential for movement that is radically different from what another dance company would have,” says artistic director Judith Smith, who became disabled at age 17. Finding dance changed her life and gave her back a relationship with her body, self-esteem and self-confidence. “ I love doing things that are unusual and pushing the boundaries of what most people think is possible,” she says. “Dance is a way to give something back, to challenge people to always question assumptions and to keep their minds open to the endless possibilities and potentials inherent in us all.”
The company’s 2011 home season further upped the ante as they presented Full of Words, by internationally acclaimed choreographer Mark Brew, marking the first time AXIS has worked with a European choreographer. Brew is both a sought-after choreographer and disabled himself, the sole survivor of a car accident caused by a drunk driver. He has worked as a dancer and choreographer in the UK and internationally for more than 17 years with companies such as Australian Ballet Company, South Africa’s PACT Ballet, and Scottish Dance Theater.
Full of Words is a series of 3 duets between 3 couples of dancers in everyday situations, each beginning with a dialogue based on the game ‘you say a word, I say a word and together we make a sentence’. While the opening lines are spoken, the remainder of the dialogues is expressed through movements- lines and extensions, intricate folding, placement and re-placement, to create romantic conversations. Says Brew, “This work can be thought of as a series of physical conversations, encounters and interventions that reflect what it is to be human.”
AXIS Dance Company on “So You Think You Can Dance”: