June 1, 2015

Meet Sarah

Hi, I’m Sarah Furnish, the Artistic Director and Founder of Infinity Dance Company dba Danceability Iowa. 17 IMG_9421-1b

I first discovered Danceability while studying Dance at Mendocino College. An alumni Wendy Peterman and one of her company dancers, Mary, conducted a Weekend Workshop at Mendocino College, and then performed a piece in the Spring Dance Festival. There were a number of things about this experience that inspired me.

The first thing I noticed during the Workshop was that it felt too easy and too difficult at the same time. It was easy because it didn’t require me to overly exert myself. It was challenging because I was being asked to devise my own choreography.

Even though I had always loved developing my own choreography, the reason that I wanted to attend Mendocino College was because I wanted to be told what to do.  I had hoped to be shown fantastic tricks and visually remarkable moves that would leave the audience eyes wide and mouth gaping.  Instead, I was constantly being asked to come up with interesting and unique material, at the drop of a dime. Looking back at all my dance experiences I wish I would have learned DanceAbility as a kid (along with the standard tap, jazz and ballet). I would have been a whiz by now in the spontaneous choreography department. I realized that one of the problems with traditional dance training is that they never teach you how to think on your feet (no pun intended). What they do teach you is how to become the very best copycat in the room, and if you can’t do it as good or better as the #1 Cool Cat,  you’re out. DanceAbility, on the other foot,  allows you the freedom and tools to improvise with anyone and everyone at any given moment!

The other thing that I clearly noticed was my fear. Mary had Cerebral Palsy; she danced both in and out of her wheelchair. When she was out of her chair, other dancers would dance in her chair. But I felt a strong distaste, admittedly irrational fear of the chair. I imagined myself sitting in it, or simply touch it, as it slipped away or tipped over. 87 IMG_9274-1bWhat’s wrong me with? I asked myself.  I desired  to be like everyone else who could do super cool tricks while dancing in the chair, or even with multiple others in the chair. Part of this was because, like a cat, I feared being moved by something I wasn’t in control of.  As a kid, I had had nightmares about riding my bike downhill way too fast and unable to stop. The other part was that it was just so foreign, like new technology you had never seen before – even though it was simply an ordinary wheelchair, just like all the others I had barely paid attention to. I realized that I had never focused on a wheelchair before. I had no idea how they worked or what capabilities they possessed. I understood that I did in fact want to experience this myself.

ANYONE CAN DANCE

The coolest experience, the biggest eye opener, during the Weekend Workshop occurred with the arrival of some disabled folk from our local community who also had signed up to participate in the Danceability Workshop. We were all doing the same exercise called “Interpretive Call and Response.” One dancer performs an action, then the rest of the group makes a response interpreting that action. I remember this like it was yesterday: there was a girl in a wheelchair who seemed fairly passive, as though she couldn’t move much at all. When it was her turn to perform the initial action, we waited and then waited some more.  Finally, she made an almost imperceptible movement with one finger. Then it was our turn to interpret that movement. And it was like magic; that one tiny movement became everyone’s movement in a colossal way, and somehow we were all in harmony, moving together as part of a kaleidoscope. And that’s the best way I know to explain what DanceAbility really is; it’s something that’s possible for everyone involved – in one way or another. The feeling that I experienced as part of that whole was tantalizing. I wanted it again.

I kept an eye on Danceability and researched it as much as I could. Then, in July of 2014, I completed a month long, live-in DanceAbility Teacher Training program in Padova, Italy. To further my education as an instructor of Danceability, in August 2015 I completed a week long dance intensive with Axis Dance Company, America’s premier Inclusive Dance company. I completed their teacher training program as well. And today, 85 IMG_9268-1bI am proud to be the first (and only) Certified DanceAbility teacher in the state of Iowa. I’ve got to say that even though I’ve had a multitude of various jobs in my life, none has been as fulfilling. I love what I do and hope to continually grow my repertoire, so that I can bring the joy of self-expression, spontaneity and dance to more people.

I want to reiterate (and this is very difficult to explain), even though we all dance harmoniously, in a spontaneous, interpretative fashion, my goal is never to teach anyone to dance like anyone else. What I try to do is to teach people to dance together, on the same page, as part of the same kaleidoscope. So I don’t wish to describe Danceability as any kind of special class for individuals with special needs. While these classes are indeed unique, no on is any “more or less” special than anyone else. We need each other to be in harmony. No one is ever alone or isolated; and no one is any more or less valuable than any one else.

See Infinity Dance aka Danceability Iowa performing in DSC00157the Iowa City Pedestrian Mall, center stage, for the 25th Annual ADA Celebration.

To learn more about Axis Dance Company http://www.danceability.com/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *