By Samuel Miller
Oakland’s AXIS Dance Company (@AXISDanceCo) performs on So You Think You Can Dance this Thursday! Details: http://tinyurl.com/3wme8e4
In the 1980’s, when I was more ambulatory than I am today, I met a humanities professor at a local chess club in downtown Montreal. He was intrigued by my disability because I walked with a scissor-gait, aided by two wooden canes. I told him that I was born with cerebral palsy. After some initial discussion, I recall that he pulled out a lined sheet of paper from his jacket and a short pencil. He began writing a one-page essay which argued that the physically disabled were not part of the Pepsi generation. (This was when Michael Jackson was at the height of his musical popularity and shilling for that soft-drink company.)
Through the years that followed, his argument has always resonated with me because music videos—and dance shows—have largely excluded the physically disabled. ‘So You Think You Can Dance’, to its credit, has featured, in past seasons, a few physically disabled contestants performing dance routines during auditions—and their efforts have elicited standing ovations, genuine praise from the judges, and even some tears of joy. But these contestants never advanced beyond the tryouts because the ‘SYTYCD’ dance routines were considered too demanding and inappropriate for dancers with physical limitations. But the real reason for their rejection, I suspect, is that the show’s producers believed that their TV audience wasn’t ready for such a spectacle, and they feared a major loss of ratings.
Heather Anne Mills, an amputee and ex-wife of rock star Paul McCartney, ably performed as a contestant on ‘Dancing with the Stars’ in 2007, but her prosthetic leg was always covered by a long gown, if memory serves.
AXIS is a professional, physically-integrated dance company featuring dancers with and without physical disabilities. The time has come for the television audience to see beyond physical limitation and appreciate artistry. Please watch AXIS Dance Company perform on Thursday’s ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ results show.
Samuel Miller, 54, was born with cerebral palsy. He is a graduate of McGill University’s English Department and is a literary disabilities specialist. Visit his blog: http://mydisabilitystudiesblackboard.blogspot.com