"From as far back as I can remember," Mary said, "I always wanted to be a dancer. … I had braces and crutches when I was growing up, and my mother was … a professional dancer prior to my being born. She always instilled the idea of music and movement from the time I could remember anything. I remember that she took me to this shrine, because my family was very religious, too, and we were visiting with the nuns and she said, 'Show them how you know the Mexican Hat Dance.' And they put a hat down and I was doing the dance on my braces and crutches, and they just really loved that. It was kind of the first time I was actually doing a little impromptu performance, so I remember that. I was probably about three years old."
Enjoying Her Dancing Wheels
"Our first big performance was [the Dance Fever] competition at a dance club in Willoughby," Mary went on, "and there were 2,000 people in the audience because there were all these other competitors. … We entered the dance floor [and there] was an entire hush over the audience; 2,000 people and you could've heard a pin drop because they were awestruck that there was a person in a wheelchair in a dance competition. … And then we broke into dance, and we did 'It's Raining Men' by The Weather Girls. … We just went all out. My girlfriend had made our costumes."
In 1990, Dancing Wheels became associated with The Cleveland Ballet. It was also at this time that Mary formed the Dancing Wheels School. "I had access to working in the school of The Cleveland Ballet and learning from their techniques, their training," said Mary. "I was able to develop relationships with choreographers and have a pool of professional ballet dancers to work with."
Dance with a Message
"We'll do two things," Mary said. "We'll either have a call to create a piece specifically … [such as when we recently developed] an educational program [based on Newton's Law] that included dance [and] was a mix of science and movement. … Then there are other dances that we've done, for instance Daring to Be Dumbo, which was based on the story of the elephant with the big ears … [in] a modern-day setting. So there was still a Dumbo, but Dumbo was a Junior-High-School student and was a female who had big ears [and] she was teased for how she looked. Once that ballet was created, we decided to take it further and excerpt it and develop an outreach program based on anti-bullying."
"[In] the original story of Dumbo, Dumbo was bullied for being an elephant [whose ears were] with too big[.] … [Then] he found a way to take that disadvantage and make it an advantage so he could fly with his big ears. We're always looking for themes that fit within the curriculum of the schools and that also might relate to social issues."
Embracing Limitless Potential
This interview series is sponsored by Eldercare Professionals of Ohio, where we make your well-being our priority. Our interview series goes hand in hand with that effort, and we hope you find it helpful! For more information on how we can help, contacts us at www.EldercareOfOhio.com, for questions on how to make your home a home for life, visit us at www.CallDontFall.com or call me (Brian Pritchard) at 216-212-7531.
To see a Dancing Wheels performance, participate in their dance school or learn more about their programs, please visit them on the web at www.DancingWheels.org or call them at 216-432-0306.