Art as Action brings people together at the intersection of dance, (dis)ability and creative potential.
Dance has a reputation of being available to a select few: those blessed with a particular body type, the privilege of expensive training and the rare talent to master challenging technique. AaA defies convention to revel in the powers of dance that are beneficial and enjoyable for every body. AaA meets this need through its two programs: The Artivist Process and Reconnect with your Body (Reconnect).
The Artivist Process is the creative framework developed by AaA that is used to create AaA's annual show. Since 2002, AaA has successfully produced 16 multi-disciplinary shows, unifying diverse creative voices through this collaborative structure.
Company members with and without (dis)abilities contribute piece ideas around a common theme. The process includes milestones/deadlines that support the evolution and quality of work by new and seasoned artists. The workshop-style approach enables performers to provide input and feedback, shaping and strengthening each piece and weaving the show together into a cohesive narrative.
The nurturing, collaborative environment makes even the biggest artistic leap feel possible. Each company member plays a role in the "collective curation," creating a dynamic show from a wide variety of artistic voices.
In 2011, AaA created a new arena for creative expression, launching Reconnect with your Body (Reconnect), dance for people with and without Parkinson's disease (PD). What started as a small dance class has become a thriving multi-faceted program that includes weekly classes at two locations and community engagement in the Parkinson's and dance communities throughout Colorado. AaA Artistic Director Sarah Leversee is the teacher, choreographer and facilitator for Reconnect.
Reconnect is a safe space to explore movement and music in ways that are stimulating and creative, experiment with a variety of dance styles and experience a sense of belonging amongst a warm, supportive community.
Reconnect classes currently serve 26 regular participants at two locations through weekly classes at Apex Community Center in Arvada and at the Colorado Conservatory of Dance (CCD) in Broomfield.
AaA leads Reconnect presentations for Parkinson's Support Groups throughout Colorado, providing the opportunity for a wide variety of people with PD and their care partners to learn and experience the joys and benefits of dance. A blend of movement, artistic expression and community building, Reconnect offers a vibrant and memorable experience for support group attendees.
After eight years of developing Reconnect, AaA has become a trusted resource for dance in the Parkinson's community, including the Movement Disorders Center, Parkinson's Association of the Rockies and Davis Phinney Foundation. Members of the AaA company have become educators about the transformative and healing power of dance, reaching audiences throughout Colorado, including at a variety of PD events.
AaA is a part of the annual Parkinson Association of the Rockies E3 (Educate, Empower, Energize) Conference. Members of the AaA dance company with Parkinson's join Reconnect teacher and AaA artistic director Sarah Leversee on stage to lead conference attendees in a much welcomed Reconnect dance break set to inspiring and upbeat music. Sarah and the dancers spend the rest of the conference as part of the "Empowerment Bar," inviting attendees to do simple, feel-good Reconnect movement to a variety of music in small groups.
The University of Colorado Movement Disorders Center hosts an annual Parkinson's Symposium where AaA dancers with Parkinson's also perform and Sarah leads an interactive dance break with attendees.
Both of these events are amazing opportunities to share the joy, healing and community spirit of dance with a wide range of people with Parkinson's and their care partners. Members of the AaA company with Parkinson's (who also participate in Reconnect classes) have the opportunity to make personal connections with other people with PD and share their experiences with dance. Event attendees have the chance to experience the magic of Reconnect firsthand, feeling the possibility of movement that otherwise would feel out of reach.
AaA also partners with the Davis Phinney Foundation (DPF), a national organization that focuses on living well with Parkinson's based in Boulder. In 2018, AaA Artistic Director Sarah Leversee contributed an article to the DPF blog called "Dance for Parkinson's: More than just Exercise." DPF is a 2019 sponsor, supporting the new Reconnect scholarship program for people who are unable to afford the class fees, and will have a presence at AaA events throughout the year.
In an effort to establish physically integrative dance as a valid and vital part of any diverse and thriving dance community, AaA participates in a variety of dance events, including "Open Space" at Dairy Arts Center presented by SCFD organization 3rd Law Dance/Theater and the "Dance for Every Body" showcase at Boulder Public Library. These types of performances give members of the Boulder Dance Community the opportunity to rediscover the delight of dancing free from the expectation of achievement and perfection that comes with being a technically trained dancer.
Members of the Reconnect class were invited to join The Artivist Process for the first time in 2014, an experience many would never have considered before Reconnect uncovered their inner performer. These dancers stepped further into their artistic potential and have had increasing influence on TAP over the years. All AaA company members have equal voice and those voices are amplified in the culminating performance through dance and spoken word. The inclusion of a wide range of performers contributes to a wide range of audience members, many who are not seasoned performance goers. Storytelling through spoken word integrated with dance maximizes audience understanding and ability to relate. The performances are enhanced with both recorded and live music.
Both the Artivist Process and Reconnect emphasize connection and community, nurturing an authentic sense of belonging for participants and performers, which extends to audience members. By providing an inclusive arena for a wide range of participants, AaA brings opportunities for any and every dancer and offers the community an opportunity to experience humanity through art.
"While disability and depression whispered: 'You will never dance again,' AaA literally saved my life. It mattered not that I needed the support of my wheelchair and braces to dance: I was welcomed into a community whose members understood the challenges of living with a debilitating condition and the power of dance to heal and challenge stereotypes. When I dance, I turn away from pain and limitation, toward hope and curiosity, creating a new identity. Dance has given us the power to transform not only ourselves, but those who bear witness to our journeys. I now dance in both worlds - (dis)abled and able-bodied. I am excited to be part of AaA's initiative to foster greater collaboration with professional dancers and to continue to tell stories of loss and empowerment that challenge assumptions about (dis)ABILITY." - Carol Cowley, Art as Action Company Member
"(The AaA show) was exceptional. It communicated a powerful, beautiful, and integrated story of humanity. Dance, movement, and the expression of one's heart and hopes is so healing and powerful. I want to thank AaA for providing the opportunity for dancers and community members like me to celebrate life and the artistic voice in all of us." - Mollie McGill, audience member
"Every dance class, I feel the tether of Parkinson's loosen. You beckon us to stretch beyond the stiffness of mind and body that inhabits us, binds us. You think we can dance, and so we dance, much to our surprise. Our fellow dancers exude a kind of joy that spreads to us all. PD falls away." - Carol Jenkins, Reconnect with your Body class participant